, Salem, MA


March 17, 2014

A look at what others are saying

A short list of what’s wrong with laws requiring mandatory minimum jail sentences for nonviolent drug offenders would include the following:

They are harshly unfair, sweeping up and incarcerating a disproportionate number of minority offenders; they don’t work, even a bit, in deterring drug use; they cost an astronomical amount of money; and they tie the hands of judges, keeping them from using their discretion, from basing a sentence on the particulars of the case before them.

Thankfully, there’s been a growing awareness, at least in recent years, that the sentencing requirements, while perhaps well-intentioned when adopted, proved in practice to be an absolute nightmare.

Congress made a significant step in 2010 when it voted to reduce the ridiculous disparity in sentences handed out for possession of crack cocaine vs. the drug in its powder form.

Now, Attorney General Eric Holder wants to take the next logical step. He’s moving to see that those sentenced under the old laws can have their jail time reduced.

And he’s found some allies in a most-unlikely place: the Republican Party.

Yes, libertarian-leaning members of the GOP see the wisdom of Holder’s move — and the foolishness of maintaining the status quo.

Those who tend to see the glass as half-full, who prefer to look on the bright side, might hope that this most-unlikely alliance is sign of greater things still to come. If Holder and some in the GOP can see eye-to-eye on this one, might there be additional untilled common ground?

We’d like to think so, would like at least to hope so.

— The Republican of Springfield, Mass.

Former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner recently cited her Fifth Amendment protection against incrimination in refusing for the second time to testify before Congress about what role she played in the IRS’s targeting of certain groups, particularly conservative ones, before the 2012 election.

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