Senator Lakey from Idaho wake up

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Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, should rethink his stated intention to deny a hearing for a bill reforming Idaho’s mandatory minimum sentencing system.

The bill is a bipartisan piece of legislation cosponsored by Rep. Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls, and Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise. It passed the House in a 48-21 vote Monday.

But Lakey has indicated he won’t give the bill a hearing in the Senate, killing it while ducking a debate about an important issue facing the state. Instead, he plans to introduce his own, greatly watered-down version of the bill.

There’s an argument that the policy expertise of experienced chairmen can prevent bad legislation from passing, and that may be valid in some cases. But Lakey’s position flies in the face of most available evidence on this issue, undermining any claim to expertise he might make.

Decades of research on deterrence in the criminal justice system lead to a clear conclusion: Longer sentences don’t deter crime. Rather, what deters crime is the certainty of apprehension and punishment.

You’re likely to get a much greater reduction in drug trafficking by catching lots of drug dealers and giving them lighter sentences than by catching a few and sentencing them harshly.

Researchers have also dug deep to find whether longer prison stays reduce the risk that a convict will re-offend. Generally, those studies have found that a longer prison stay either has no detectable effect on recidivism rates or that a longer prison stay increases the risk of recidivism.

But tying judges’ hands to force longer sentences does have one predictable effect: It causes an explosion in the prison population. As a result of “tough on crime” mandatory minimum sentences throughout the nation, the U.S. has far and away the world’s highest incarceration rate. It’s about 20 percent higher than Cuba’s rate, nearly twice as high as Russia’s and almost six times as high as China’s.

Even El Salvador, a country beset by gangs with a murder rate 10 times higher than the U.S., has a lower incarceration rate.

More comparable societies, like England, France and Germany, typically have an incarceration rate that’s between one-fifth and one-tenth of ours. Despite their comparative laxity in sentencing, they generally have much lower crime rates as well.

Idaho’s prisons are so overcrowded that the state is paying a private prison company to house some 700 inmates at a facility in Texas. And the state has kicked around the idea of building a new prison. The estimated price-tag? Half a billion dollars. You could pay for a lot of additional law enforcement with that money. The total annual budget for the Idaho State Police last year was about $70 million.

In short, mandatory minimums are a great way of spending a lot of money and imposing a lot of pain, but they provide no clear benefit to society.

Lakey may disagree with the bill and the bulk of the empirical research, which clearly supports it. That’s fine. He should simply grant the bill a hearing, make his argument, and convince his committee to vote against it.

Unilaterally preventing Senate debate on a bipartisan, sensible piece of legislation that overwhelmingly passed the House, however, is unacceptable.

The Post Register’s editorial board consists of Publisher Travis Quast, Managing Editor Monte LaOrange and editorial writer Bryan Clark. Clark can be reached at 208-542-6751.

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Sucks

So today on my blog I am going to be serious because I’m mad as hell and need to talk about the legal system in this country.

Mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses is the most asinine law on the books to date and does nothing but cause massive overcrowding of all prisons and shifts power away from judges and into the hands of prosecutors.

If you don’t know what this is here’s a quick overview:

Mandatory minimum sentencing laws are laws which force a judge to hand down a minimum prison sentence for certain crimes, such as drug possession. These mandatory minimum sentences are set for possession of a drug over a certain amount and are set by Congress, not judges. Judges cannot lower these sentences, even for extenuating circumstances that would otherwise lessen the punishment.

This proves to be the biggest problem with mandatory minimum sentencing. Originally, these laws were passed to ensure that certain criminals served long prison sentences; these laws are cruel and ineffective. They have pointed out that these laws often unfairly target low-level offenders while the worst offenders tend to evade the system.

The saddest part of this whole equation is that this disproportionately impacts people of color.

One Example:

Texas law assigns penalties based on the weight of certain types of drugs, dividing the drugs into penalty groups to determine the type of felony and punishment range.

In Texas, possessing less than 1 gram of cocaine is a state jail felony with up to 2 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Whereas possessing 1 – 4 grams is a 2nd degree felony with possible punishment of 2 – 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Under federal law, selling 28 grams of crack cocaine triggers a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years in prison, regardless of what a judge believes is a fair sentence.

One scenario;

  • 26 year old man with no criminal history:
  • College graduate
  • Given opioids by the truck load by doctors and coaches to be able to participate in athletics and “play through injuries”.
  • Young man graduates but is a full blown prescription med addict, how could he not be?
  • Can’t get prescriptions now so moves onto cheaper options to try and not be dope sick
  • Young man arrested in Idaho with just over 2 grams of whatever drug for personal use
  • Young man charged with drug trafficking and facing mandatory 3 years to life in prison based solely on amount of drug in his possession
    • The prosecutor does not have to prove this person was selling
    • The prosecutor does not care what circumstances led to the drug use
    • Wasn’t the intent to use mandatory minimums against “kingpins” and “middle-level dealers,” not the minor offenders to whom they have been applied

You can be certain that I will be standing in front of the legislature during the upcoming joint session to scream as loudly as possible about this idiotic law and try to change the incarceration of drug users who need treatment not prison.

If we spent the amount of money on treatment that we do on the incarceration of nonviolent low level drug offenders due to mandatory minimums the prisons in the United States wouldn’t be bursting at the seams.

Here are some articles or you can do a google search and find thousands or outcry’s for change

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/5-charts-show-mandatory-minimum-sentences-dont-work

https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/05/15/mandatory-minimum-sentences-are-cruel-and-ineffective-sessions-wants-them-back/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.20b23d66a7d1

https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/mandatory-minimum-sentencing-girlfriend-problem-757690/