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The Tea Party Patriots

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Last night, I had the opportunity to talk about proposed sentencing reform legislation in a webinar broadcast by the Tea Party Patriots. (Next month, I'll do so with a politically quite different group, the American Constitution Society National Convention).

The Patriots asked if I would post my remarks, and I am happy to do so.  I'll start out by saying here what I said in the webinar: There are some good people supporting the bill, like Michael Mukasey and Sen. Mike Lee, but also some good ones opposing it, like Sens. Jeff Sessions, Tom Cotton and David Perdue.  Sen. Ted Cruz likewise opposes bill, although he voted for a somewhat similar bill in the last Congress.  And Sen. Orin Hatch opposes the bill at least until it is re-written to include mens rea reform  --  a dim prospect given the Administration's adamant opposition. 

What's different is that, while no extreme leftist supports preserving our present, successful system  --  a system that has helped massively reduce crime  --  many support going back to what President Reagan called the failed policies of the past: Feckless faith in untethered judicial discretion, and a misguided belief in the efficacy of rehabilitation. Among those supporting a return to the failed ideas (and, as night follows day, the failed results) of the past are George Soros, the ACLU, the SEIU, and of course the entire Obama Administration.

Conservatives in the Tea Party might want to think twice before joining forces with that group.
This is what I said to the Tea Party:

Backers of sentencing reform are enthusiastic about what they see as its many benefits:  Thousands fewer men in prison for less onerous terms, reunited more quickly with their families, to lead productive lives and become taxpayers instead of tax-eaters.

I will put to one side for the moment the naive view I think this picture paints of the people who get sent to prison, and  the behavior, and more importantly the attitudes, that send them there.   I'll say only that in my experience as a federal prosecutor, I did not typically see family men caught up in a one-time departure from a productive, working life. What I saw were men who, from their teenage years on, had a sketchy employment history, wanted a fast buck, and think rules are for suckers.  If they had children, the first time they had bothered to see them in weeks or sometimes months was when their girlfriend, often at defense counsel's urging, brought them to the sentencing hearing hoping to squeeze some sympathy out of the judge.

Instead, I want to focus at the outset on something reformers talk about much less: The costs to the rest of us of shorter sentences and earlier release.  As I'll explain later, the costs are certain to be stratospheric, given the staggering frequency at which inmates return to their criminal ways. 

But we don't need to look to recidivism statistics to see the grim picture.  We need only look in the newspaper.  A story in an Ohio paper tells us about what happened when we tried a more limited version of "sentencing reform" a few years ago.  In 2010, Congress passed, and the US Sentencing Commission implemented, retroactively reduced sentences for crack cocaine dealers. 

Three months ago, the Columbus Dispatch described the result in one such case.  Here's what the story relates:

The man charged with killing an ex-girlfriend and two of her children in a North Side stabbing rampage likely would have been deep into a 12 1/2-year federal prison sentence if sentencing guidelines for convicted crack dealers had remained unchanged.

Wendell L. Callahan, 35, twice benefited from changes in federal sentencing guidelines, which reduced his sentence by a total of more than four years... 

Columbus police charged Callahan on Tuesday with three counts of murder in the deaths of ex-girlfriend Erveena Hammonds, 32, and her daughters, Breya Hammonds, 7, and Anaesia Green, 10.

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In a harrowing call to 911, neighbors implored police to hurry. One woman who was nearly incomprehensible in her grief eventually passed the phone to a man, who said, "There's children with their throats slit."

Hammonds and Callahan had a history going back more than 10 years. In a Columbus police report from 2006, taken while Callahan's federal case was pending, Hammonds said that he had beaten and choked her so severely that she thought he "would have killed her if (a) good Samaritan didn't pass by."

In a 2011 motion for Callahan's last reduction, Callahan's attorney said federal prosecutors agreed that Callahan's good behavior in prison and other factors led both sides [emphasis added]: "to conclude that his early release did not present a danger to the safety of the public."

Federal prison records show that Callahan was released on Aug. 8, 2014. If the new federal guidelines hadn't gone through, he likely would have been in prison at least until late this year...

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One may assume, as I do, that this horror of a case is the result of error rather than appalling dishonesty by Callahan's  defense lawyer, and breathtaking incompetence by the prosecutor and the court.  But for sentencing reform purposes, the mistaken is worse than the corrupt.

Reformers will say, correctly, that any system we adopt is certain to have error, and we have no choice but to accept this fact.  But they stop asking questions too early.

Error is indeed unavoidable  --  with some sentences, in our present or any future system,  being too long, and others not long enough.  But with error sure to happen, the only realistic questions  are what kind of damage should we be willing to accept when it does, and who should have to bear the risk?

Should the damage be in the nature of an unfair delay in the inmate's departure from prison  --  or of a permanent delay in his next victim's departure from the graveyard?  Should the risk be borne by the criminal, who made his own choices, or the future victim, who had no choice  --  and no chance? 

Errors involving overlong sentences are a bad thing; there is no denying this fact.  But the nature of the harm flowing from insufficient sentences being what the Callahan case shows it can be, any change in the system that pushes more of the burden of error onto future victims  -- defenseless little girls like Breya Hammonds and Anaesia Green  --  goes beyond merely bad.  In a decent country, it is unacceptable.

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In a way, though, the Callahan reduced sentencing scandal is only the most recent illustration of a lesson we've been learning for 50 years:

When we have more prison we have less crime, and when we have less prison we have more crime.

Two generations ago, in the Sixties and Seventies, we made much less use of prison.  We had  a sentencing system with no guidelines and few mandatory minimum terms.  We convinced ourselves that rehabilitation works well enough, and that we could trust judges with nearly unlimited discretion.

We got something for our trouble  --  a national crime wave.  In the two decades after 1960, crime increased by  over 300%.  Whole neighborhoods in our major cities became free-fire zones, largely because of the gun-play associated with drug dealing.  There were nearly 450 murders a week.  

Under President Reagan, all this started to change.  We embraced stern, determinate sentencing.  For  some serious offenses  --  firearms trafficking, and drugs including heroin and meth  --  a large, bi-partisan majority in Congress adopted mandatory minimums below which even the most liberal, willful or naive judge could not go.  States followed suit, and the prison population swelled.

But the country got something in exchange for the reforms that made sentencing serious and honest. From the early Nineties to the present day, we have enjoyed a reduction in crime to levels not seen since the Baby Boomers were in grade school. 

Crime has dropped fifty percent.

There are 5.4 million fewer serious crimes per year in America now than there were a generation ago.  Not all this is because of the increased use of prison.    Prof. James Q. Wilson and other scholars have found that a quarter of it is,  perhaps slightly more.  Some of it is due simply to the aging of the most crime-prone segment of the population.  Other measures we have taken, such as more police, more pro-active policing, and improved private security have likewise contributed.  But  increased incarceration is a major factor in the reduction in crime.   

Over the last 20 years, a fortune in costs to potential crime victims has been saved, and enormous human suffering averted, because of the millions of crimes incarcerated criminals did not have the chance commit.  These savings are seldom if ever accounted for in the cost reduction it is said sentencing reform will produce.  Nor, truth be told, will there be cost reduction at all.  There will simply be cost shifting  --  shifting from government, where they'll be boldly advertised as tax frugality, to future victims, disproportionately minorities, who will bear them in obscure silence.

At this point, I should probably be clear about what the phrase, "sentencing reform" actually means.  It does not mean, as the credulous might think, a top-to-bottom reformulation of sentencing.  It means principally only one thing:  Lighter sentences for felons.

Those backing lighter sentences say they're needed, not just for the supposed cost savings, but more importantly because we're gone overboard with imprisonment.  I think this view embraces an odd misconception:  That the health of the criminal justice system is measured, not by the crime rate, but by the incarceration rate.  But if you'd ask people on Main Street, what's the problem with how we handle lawbreakers, how many would say, in the echo of sentencing reform backers, "We have too many people in prison for too long"? 

Some would, certainly.  But the great majority of ordinary citizens would  say, "We still have too much crime," and they'd be right.  Even with all we've achieved, we still have nearly 10,000,000 serious crimes every year.  We have 15,000 murders, 84,000 rapes, three-quarters of a million aggravated assaults. and over 1.7 million burglaries.  According to Gallup, one in four households has been victimized by crime in just the last year.

It would be one thing if, after release, inmates led peaceable and productive lives.  But that's not what happens.  According to a 2014 Justice Department report of 30 states:

"Within five years of release, 82 percent of property offenders were arrested for a new crime, compared to 77 percent of drug offenders... and 71 percent of violent offenders."

In other words, the huge majority  -- three quarters  -- of released criminals get back in business.  With a recidivism rate like that, what shorter sentences and earlier release means is simple: more crime faster.

But it's not just that practitioners of sentencing "reform" can't be counted upon to release only the "low level, non-violent inmates" they so often tell us about.  There's a more radical, core premise at the base of their argument:  That offenses not involving violence simply aren't as serious as our sentencing system has made them.

For punishment purposes, however, the correct question is not just whether the offense involves violence; the correct question is whether it involves  harm.

Non-violent offenses do incalculable harm.  The trafficking and consumption of hard drugs, for example, is one of the most socially destructive enterprises going on in America, even when if comes without direct violence.  There's nothing violent going on when a teenage addict slides the needle in his arm, but if he gets the dosage wrong, he'll be dead by nightfall.  There's nothing violent going on when a nine year old is enticed to pose for obscene pictures, but her childhood has been poisoned.  There's nothing violent going on when an older couple is swindled out of their life savings, but their hopes for the future are gone.  The siren song of the "low level, non-violent" offender will lead us into a swamp where people who can't afford to run for Congress will drown.

I'll say one last word.  I once thought the ideas behind sentencing reform took root merely in forgetfulness about our past blunders;  complacency about our success in correcting them;  and, more recently, a refusal to look honestly at the surge in murder and heroin use we see  in cities from coast to coast.

But now I think there's something more ominous afoot:  It's part of our country's recent pattern of decline and retreat, of settling for lower standards in the name of a toxic brand of equality.  Increasingly,  we have turned away from America's strength and resolve, and have discounted the interests of those who lead peaceable and productive lives in order to cut breaks to those who don't.  

We know what lies down that path because we've been there before.  Those who forget the past are, it is wisely said, doomed to repeat it.  The way forward in criminal sentencing is not an embrace of the soft thinking and disastrous results of the Sixties and Seventies.  It's to remember and preserve the hard work we've done to correct the mistakes of those days and, over the last generation, to make the country so much safer for all its people.  ###

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14 Comments

Can you explain the significant difference between the "tethered" judicial discretion that exisits under current federal sentencing law and the "untethered" discretion you fear the SRCA would give us? Relatedly, I would like to know whether you consider prosecutorial discretion sufficiently tethered under existing federal sentencing law.

Tethered judicial discretion is judgment constrained by the relatively strong mandatory minimum statutes we have now, while untethered discretion would feature relatively weaker mandatory minimums to be applied retroactively, thus feeding Big Government tax expenditures by exposing to costly re-litigation thousands and thousands of closed cases with guilty defendants serving legal sentences.

Of course they could have stayed away from their present sentences altogether had they troubled themselves to abjure, say, drug pushing, and get a normal job like the huge majority of people (including African Americans). But noooooooooooo, they want a quick buck, and then to whine endlessly that the fault for their fate lies with Amerika rather than their own greedy choices.

Sorry. I just won't be buying that.

P.S. Prosecutorial discretion -- i.e., what charges to bring or whether to bring any -- is conferred by the Constitution solely on the executive branch. There is no role for the judiary.

If you want to change that, you wouldn't be the first, but you'd need to take that up with the Founders. As Justice Scalia once observed, the Constitution says what it says, and doesn't say what it doesn't say.

So, just to recap, Bill, you assert the Constittuion REQUIRES federal prosecutorial discretion to be untethered (although this would seem to be at issue now in US v. Texas).

I do not significantly disagree with your view that prosecutorial discretion MUST be untethered, but it is that very reality that makes me so troubled by severe federal mandatory minimums and makes me so supportive of the tweaks to MMs that so many support in the SRCA. Federal Judges sentencing, even after passage of the SRCA, would remain tethered to lots of sentencing laws and any big mistakes can/should be seen in open court and corrected through appellate review. But as MMs put sentencing power directly in the hands of untethered prosecutors, there is no way to see how this power gets exercised, and there is no review. In other words, the kind of sentencing reform in the SRCA should be seen as a win for the rule of law, no?

I stress this point because your reference to judicial discretion being untethered, while a fair description of federal sentencing law in the 1970s, does not capture at all when modern reform proposals seek. Moreover, what I have long feared, and merits exposure, is that your enduring view is that federal prosecutors always should be given and trusted with untethered and hidden discretion more than federal judges should be trusted with tethered and open discretion. I do not consider this view inherently wrong, but I do find troublesome your persistent efforts to hide the fact that this view in part drives your advocacy against the SRCA.

Doug,

Am I wrong to counter that prosecutors are "tethered" by the jury? A prosecutor may be free to overcharge a defendant but if a jury feels the defendant is not guilty of the overcharged crime, they can come back with a verdict indicating that.

"So, just to recap, Bill, you assert the Constittuion REQUIRES federal prosecutorial discretion to be untethered (although this would seem to be at issue now in US v. Texas)."

Close, but not exactly what I said. Prosecutorial discretion is untethered by the OTHER BRANCHES. It can be and is guided, however, by internal controls; by budgetary realities; and by influence (though not dictation) from what is going on in the other branches, and more broadly in the culture.

As TarlsQtr correctly points out, it is also circumscribed by the results you're getting from juries. And, of course, it's subject to control by the electorate, which can replace prosecutors having X attitude and priorities with different ones having Y attitude and priorities.

That's a lot of tethering, everything considered.

As the remainder of your comment suggests, MM's are a matter of degree and direction. Over the last 25 years, both have favored shifting away from the (poor-performing) judiciary and toward the (proven to be better at crime suppression) executive. This was both a constitutionally permissible and a highly intelligent choice.

The difference between us is that I would take "yes" for an answer: The main objective by far is to suppress crime, and we have done that with great success (no matter how much the defense bar resents it).

The secondary thing is to reduce costs as much as we sensibly can. This can be done without any legislation at all by a shift in the culture (including academia) from pointing the finger at the big, bad system to start pointing it at individuals who don't respect the rights of others to live in peace and safety.

You're not the problem. I'm not the problem. Thieves, strongarms, swindlers and pushers are the problem. If they want to clean it up, good for them -- and for us too, as the prison population shrinks to next to nothing. If not, they have only themselves to blame.

Good comments, though judges are, of course, tethered/guided by all the forces you mention (save a few more limits on voting them out). In the end, Bill, I surmise you are agreeing that you just see prosecutorial power and discretion as being more effective at crime fighting than judicial power and discretion. Though I could dicker with the crime-result particulars, I am pleased to see you admit that you embrace an ends-justifies-the-means approach to increasing executive power. It confirms for me how similar a modern defense of big CJ systems is to a whole lot of other big government systems.

For this reasons and others, I would guess you are pleased to see we are looking at having Trump or Hillary as our next Prez, as both seem to be huge fans of ends-justify-the-means approaches to getting their chosen goals achieved.

"In the end, Bill, I surmise you are agreeing that you just see prosecutorial power and discretion as being more effective at crime fighting than judicial power and discretion."

It's not so much what "I see." It's what the last 25 years show to anyone who looks. As MM's have (constitutionally) shifted power toward the executive branch, and longer sentences have ensued, we have had far less crime and far fewer crime victims.

This is a good thing, no?

"Though I could dicker with the crime-result particulars, I am pleased to see you admit that you embrace an ends-justifies-the-means approach to increasing executive power."

No more than sentencing reformers embrace an "end-justifies-the-means approach" to increasing JUDICIAL (i.e., unelected) power.

Sentencing reformers have an openly declared END of reducing incarceration, and the MEANS will be to hand power back to the Jack Weinstein's of the world to chuckle at crime victims while gushing sympathy for the victimizers. Hey, look, taking pictures of eight year-old's getting raped just isn't that bad!!!

"It confirms for me how similar a modern defense of big CJ systems is to a whole lot of other big government systems."

The system of tough MM's and more incarceration works, and works well, to reduce crime and the misery and economic loss crime causes. So I plead guilty to supporting a CJ system that succeeds. Unlike sentencing reformers, who want to head back to a CJ system that fails, I want a pragmatic, not an ideologically-driven, solution to crime.

Who woulda thunk it? Bill Otis, pragmatist! But that's how it seems to be. I embrace what works and reject what flops.

Douglas stated: " I am pleased to see you admit that you embrace an ends-justifies-the-means approach to increasing executive power."

What a false premise.

It is not an increase in executive power. It is the executive power entrusted to the branch by the founders. For that same reason, nor is it an "ends justifies the means" approach.

The executive branch was knowingly extended these powers in the constitution. Not ceding them is very different than "extending executive power" (as Obama did with immigration). Your rhetoric and dishonestly portraying it as a power grab is a "ends justifies the means" approach to debate.

Your last sentence is beneath you.

As I noted, the irony is that Doug embraces exactly the same "ends-justify-the-means" method of thinking, just with different ends and mirror-image means.

His ends consist of reducing the amount of incarceration, and his means consist of increasing the power of unelected (and largely unaccountable) judges to hand out low sentences.

I think Doug is living in a glass house here. His is just as transparent as mine, but mine is a lot safer for ordinary people.

Bill, the last 25 years in the US have shown a lot, but trying to link MMs in particular to the significant crime drop is especially tenuous. As you know, many states and many other nations that have not ramped up incarceration so much and have not given extra sentencing powers to untethered prosecutors have achieved comparable crime drops.

Like all of us, Bill, you are a pragmatist and I appreciate such a philosophy when informed by sensible and transparent interests/ends. And I think we both desire less violent crime, but I am more concerned about having as much individual freedom and greater restraints on government interferences with individuals lives along the way -- ergo, e.g., my pragmatic affinity for repealing national alcohol prohibition; my belief we would be wise to repeal national marijuana prohibition; AND my view we could and should not give judges just a little more power to limit the severity of the sentences that prosecutors wish to impose on lower-level offenders.

Since you mentioned child porn (CP), Bill, I would like for you (and Tarls) to explain to me if you really think the Framers (or even modern crime control pragmatists) would/should have sanctioned the modern reality of federal CP sentencing law in which EVERY downloaded image could be charged as the federal crime of CP possession (with a sentencing range of 0 to 20) OR as the more serious crime of CP receipt (with a sentencing range of 5 to 20). Federal prosecutors, who currently bring about 40 of these cases each week, in every case get to decide whether the person the have decided to prosecute will have to serve at least 5 years in federal prison for downloading pics on a computer.

Do you really think the Framers, with their checks-and-balances approach to restraining federal government power, really would have wanted federal prosecutors to be able to, entirely on their own without any explanation or accountability, make unilateral judgments about 5 years of liberty for any and everyone who downloads CP? (And Tarls, if we could tell juries what the sentence would be with each type of charge, I would agree that juries could be a check here. But current law does not allow that.)

As for pragmatics, is there any evidence that having a 5-year MM for receipt in place for the last decade (and used sometimes, but not always by federal prosecutors) has been effective at reducing the receipt of child porn?

And am I really wrong, Tarls, to say that having a 5-year MM for CP receipt is an "increase in executive power"? How else would you describe it when this law gives federal prosecutors, and federal prosecutors alone, the unilateral authority and ability to decide whether and when a person who downloads CP will have to spend five year in federal prison?

You are right, Bill, that one of my ultimate goals is more human freedom but I also want less crime; lots of experiences throughout human history suggests, pragmatically, that we can have both (and I think more substantive checks and balances on prosecutorial powers serves that end).

Put another way, I see incarceration (which by definition restricts human freedom) as a necessary and costly evil and one that I do not think should be used except as a last resort. Consequently, I think federal judges should be able to have some say in "checking" when untethered federal prosecutors want to use that necessary and costly evil. In contrast, Bill, I surmise that you do not view incarceration as an evil when used on lawbreakers because it seems to "work" and thus you are not that troubled by the risk of its over-use by prosecutors and are troubled by the risk of its underuse by judges.

I say all this not to try to use dishonest rhetoric or false premises, but rather to continue to fairly understand and articulate what is at the heart of our differences of opinion. (I cannot, of course, speak for the thinking of other sentencing "reformers" --- like most of the current US Senators save the one backing Trump and a few others.)

P.S. I bring up Trump, Tarls, because I sincerely believe GOP elites have indirectly fostered the rise of Trump by too often lampooning their political opponents as people who "hate Amerika" and who "chuckle at crime victims." That kind of rhetoric, which comes from the left as well as on the right allows to the rise of candidates like Trump and Sanders who figure out the best ways to "weaponize" all the bad feelings that this rhetoric generates.

Just very quickly, since I'm on my way to dinner with some of my colleagues from the last century with whom I helped put away a few examples of Mr. Nicey out there -- the guys who get off watching movies of eight year-old's (or younger) getting raped:

If they want to act that way, they assume the risk. I'm actually not going to spend any time worrying about their fate.

Also, I decline to pretend that there do not exist among my opponents those who hate "Amerika," as THEY have been calling it for decades (including at both Princeton and Harvard, something you could not have missed).

If there is a reason I should indulge such a pretense, I'm all ears.

Lastly for now, do you find it odd that you use this forum to criticize my (truthful) characterizations of a segment of the pro-criminal crowd, while, on your own blog, you have never chastised, much less barred, the comments that Kent and I are child molesters, necrophiliacs (I think that was only me), Nazis and savages?

Bill, you know I have do not censor or screen comments on my blog for civility, in part because I think those foolish enough to call their opponents nasty ridiculous names reveal the weakness of their positions and minds and character.

Moreover, I am not telling you to stop lampooning your opponents or even criticizing your affinity for doing so; I am just suggesting that the tendency of folks on both the left and the right to resort to name calling of opponents has paved the way for the rise of a master name-caller to be the leading figure of the GOP circa 2016. That said, I would think those who truly hate America would find a way to leave it (or engage in domestic terrorism), and I think those who criticize America fiercely from the inside are often (though not always) those who truly love some version of America's ideals and are trying to push the US to vindicate those ideals.

Those issues aside, I wish you would be willing to engage my query about CP mandatory minimums problematically increasing prosecutorial power. You seem to be saying that if they are actually factually guilty of a federal crime, the constitution concerns of the framers are no longer of importance because they "assume the risk" of being subject to constitutionally suspect treatment by the executive branch. I do not want to believe that is what you truly believe, but maybe it is.

Douglas stated: "Bill, the last 25 years in the US have shown a lot, but trying to link MMs in particular to the significant crime drop is especially tenuous."

Funny how this works. When Doug supports a policy, no ridiculously bad piece of academic fraud is to be discounted. It is the "best data available." However, data not supporting his theories (ie, those showing 25% of the crime drop coming from increased incarceration) is "especially tenuous."

Doug stated: "I would like for you (and Tarls) to explain to me if you really think the Framers (or even modern crime control pragmatists) would/should have sanctioned the modern reality of federal CP sentencing law in which EVERY downloaded image could be charged as the federal crime of CP possession (with a sentencing range of 0 to 20) OR as the more serious crime of CP receipt (with a sentencing range of 5 to 20). Federal prosecutors, who currently bring about 40 of these cases each week, in every case get to decide whether the person the have decided to prosecute will have to serve at least 5 years in federal prison for downloading pics on a computer."

Interesting that you would use child porn as an example of unfair sentencing.

To answer your question, the framers gave the executive branch the sole authority to charge. It is only "tethered" by law and juries. If the defendant did not meet the legal definition of "receipt", the juries job is to find him "not guilty." If he did meet the definition, then he is guilty of that crime. It's pretty simple and I expect exactly what the founders intended.

If you do not like how each of those crimes is defined, your constitutional option is to lobby Congress to change it. It is a far more reasonable option than giving extra-constitutional powers to the judicial branch.

You stated: "And am I really wrong, Tarls, to say that having a 5-year MM for CP receipt is an "increase in executive power"? How else would you describe it when this law gives federal prosecutors, and federal prosecutors alone, the unilateral authority and ability to decide whether and when a person who downloads CP will have to spend five year in federal prison?"

The above statement is factually incorrect. The federal prosecutor has no such power. He has the power to charge. The jury decides whether the individual goes to prison via a "guilty" or "not guilty" verdict. Nor do MMs have to be decimated to fix this "problem". Redefine receipt and possession. Again, that you find a five year sentence for this to be unfair is troubling to me.

Douglas stated: "Put another way, I see incarceration (which by definition restricts human freedom) as a necessary and costly evil and one that I do not think should be used except as a last resort."

And there is your problem. Putting bad people behind bars is not "evil" at all. Justice and the protection of innocents are good and have been seen as good by every single civilized society in history. They still are good and always will be good, despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the rotting halls of liberalism that you inhabit.

Douglas stated: "P.S. I bring up Trump, Tarls, because I sincerely believe GOP elites have indirectly fostered the rise of Trump by too often lampooning their political opponents as people who "hate Amerika" and who "chuckle at crime victims.""

Hogwash. That is not what you said above (or a hundred other times). You consistently and dishonestly try to paint your ideological enemies as "big government", even though we all know that government will not shrink even a single dollar if sentencing reform occurs. In fact, it will EXPAND. As Bill has pointed out and you have never countered, the BoP budget will not shrink with the smaller prison population. And as I have pointed out and you have not countered, the first stop of the released criminal will be to his parole officer, funded by taxpayers. His second stop will be to his taxpayer funded social worker, to sign up for every taxpayer funded program on the planet, including SNAP, Medicaid, adult education and vocational training, VESID, substance abuse counseling, mental health counseling, free cell phones, etc. etc. etc. None of this is ever factored into the "studies" highlighting the great "savings" we are promised when we let your poor, oppressed CP downloader out of prison. Nor do they count the cost to all of us when the inevitable 75% that we release commit new crimes. That's all fine though, because you are not the poor minority grandma who cannot walk to the corner store to buy milk without being harassed or robbed as she leaves her stoop. Heck, you likely live in a gated community and never even drive through her neighborhood.

Doug --

Once again, very briefly:

Having a decently thorough acquaintance with the Republican Party, I can tell you that what has paved the way for The Donald is fury among about 40% - 50% of the base that the Party "Establishment" has not done ENOUGH to thwart President Obama. If the Establishment were to go along with one of Obama's remaining priorities -- less prison time for felony-level drug dealers -- it would stoke Trump even more, to the detriment of my digestion, among other things.

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