Every now and again, a single case crystalizes an argument so powerfully that there's not much left to say. Recently, I wrote
about one such case, the triple murder (of a mother and her two daughters, aged 10 and 7) by a crack dealer with a violent history who was out on early release because of Congress's 2010 version of "sentencing reform." Had he remained in jail for his original sentence, the mother and the two kids would be alive today.
We all know that errors in sentencing are inevitable, because errors in human judgment are inevitable. Accordingly, we know that some inmates will be incarcerated too long, and others, not long enough.
The only adult question, then, is this: Who should bear the risks and costs of inevitable error -- the criminal, who made his own choice and assumed his own risks, or the future victim, who never had a chance?
The question answers itself.
So does the question posed by Judge Jack Weinstein's most recent adventure in judicial defiance: Does a felony-level child pornographer deserve a prison sentence of zero?