Mandatory Minimums Are Back in Sessions!

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roy moore

Last month, behind the smoke screen of the FBI-Trump main event, Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a memo ordering federal prosecutors to seek the most serious charges possible and reinforce the use of mandatory minimum sentencing.

Sessions claims that this policy “affirms our responsibility to enforce the law, is moral and just, and produces consistency.” But how truly “just” is consistency when judicial discretion is removed? This sort of governance should be a legitimate concern for everyone who believes in a fair legal system and due process.

Time and again, mandatory minimum sentencing has proven itself to usurp judicial discretion and lead to extreme sentencing for non-violent, victimless drug offenders. Is it the position of the government that regulation of a non-violent, victimless act requires decade’s long accommodation in a prison cell?

The War on Drugs, mass incarceration, and the failures of the criminal justice system should go down as one of the darkest marks in American history. We are putting people in prison for life for victimless crimes and for exercising their own right and liberty to do with their body as they choose.

Where are the protests for those men and women who have been locked in cages – for decades – for victimless drug crimes? Where are the conservatives that argue that the government can’t regulate morality? Where are the liberals that always argue that they believe in the right to choice over one’s own body? Both sides of the aisle should agree that this is a policy failure.

The United States accounts for only 4% of the world population, but 25% of the prison population, in large part due to federal drug sentencing laws. We have mastered the art of arresting people left and right. Yet, we elected a man who paints a picture of rampant crime and lawlessness and a need to reestablish law and order. The math doesn’t add up.

We ticket people for not wearing seat belts, for warming up their cars in their driveways, for parking in the wrong direction on private property, for jaywalking, for not shoveling snow off of your sidewalk, and for pretty much anything you can think of. Our whole lives are regulated by law and order.

We arrest people for smoking a plant – that has killed zero people – and that has been known to have medical benefits, while we dish out fatal doses of pills like candy.

We put people in prison for life for possession of a nearly harmless plant, but put people on television commercials for drinking a beverage that is scientifically proven to cause serious health issues.

In Kentucky alone, we have distilleries and breweries flooding the state, a crisis with opioid addiction, and coincidentally one of the most overall unhealthy populations in the country. Where are the lifelong prison sentences for possession of a 12 pack of Bud Light, fifteen special edition bottles of bourbon, and a case of Marlboros?

You see, we have widely accepted that the right to ingest alcohol exists in the personal liberty of the individual. However, we continue to refuse to apply this same premise to marijuana.

It is time for conservatives to step to the plate and fight for personal liberty and removal of government regulation on morality, and for liberals to step to the plate and express their support for the right to choice over one’s own body. We owe it to future generations to get this right, and to chip away at the “Great Wall” that is the police state.

* Spencer Collins is a Navy veteran, healthcare administration professional and graduate student at Eastern Kentucky University. He is a supporter of limited government, individual liberty, and practical policy.

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