Our federal politicians are posing as compassionate prison wardens by cutting sentencing in drug cases and with early release. It may shock defense attorneys, but the taxpaying public allocates prison money to protect those on the outside, not to coddle those on the inside. Prison is only incidentally a cultural club, gymnasium, study hall and school for criminal skills. Prison sentences were chosen intentionally to protect the victim and innocent consumers in society. It is Congress’ job to realign sentencing law with the public’s needs.
Prisoners should not be released if they are dangerous, or if they lack employment-worthy skills. DOJ surely knows that unemployed criminals are prone to recidivism. Early released criminals should not receive welfare payments longer than a few months – that would impair cost savings for the public. If they do not support themselves after an early release they should return to prison to complete the balance of their sentence – a consequence that will motivate acquiring job skills. Early release is more complex than drafting a DOJ press release and it does not fit all prisoners.
Drug law violations are behind many convictions. If the public henceforth wants to save prison cost more than it wants to punish minor drug possession (e.g. an ounce of marijuana), then elected lawmakers should take forthright steps. First, change the law so that police are not obligated to arrest those people. Note the quantities because quantities matter. Second, change the law to permit a regulated supply chain to operate. If it’s decriminalized, there needs to be a lawful source. The DOJ pretends to be oblivious of its own 3 monkey’s stance on marijuana, except when it wants to look tough or distract media attention from a scandal.
Instead of righteous actions such as working with Congress on new sentencing law, our DOJ advises prosecutors to withhold information on the quantity and type of drugs that prompted the criminal charge. That cowardly tactic ignores current law and usurps the Congress’ authority to enact laws that the public might prefer.
The DOJ is telling prosecutors to withhold salient evidence from judges and juries assigned to criminal cases, by hiding the quantities and type of drug in new prosecutions. This jeopardizes public safety – the difference in lethality between an ounce of marijuana and a kilo of heroin is evident to everyone except the Attorney General.
This latest federal call to suppress evidence follows one a few days ago called “parallel construction” where law enforcement is required to deceive defense attorneys, juries and judges about information obtained from NSA’s surveillance of Americans.
DOJ’s half-baked approach on drug related early release and new prosecutions smells like a bar association smoke out. DOJ proves repeatedly that it is unworthy of serving the public. At minimum, the DOJ needs remedial courses on logic, civics and ethics.
Alan Daley is a retired businessman who lives in Florida and who writes for The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research