Across our country, thousands of people are behind bars serving extraordinarily long terms for a variety of low-level crimes. This is a result of well-intentioned anti-crime laws that have gone wrong.
Mandatory minimum sentencing laws enacted mainly to target drug crimes have become a mosaic of statutes that all but eliminate judicial discretion, mercy, or even common sense.
Early on, there were signs that mandatory minimums – and especially “three-strikes – had gone too far. Proponents had sold the measure by saying it would keep murderers, rapists and child molesters behind bars where they belong. Politicians saw the harsh sentences and the tough rhetoric as a way of getting votes.
But putting thousand of people behind bars comes at a price – more than a cool million dollars per life sentence here in Washington. That sure is one whole lot of money to spend to incarcerate those convicted of low-level offenses. What could our schools do with all that money??