The Washington Post this week drew attention to a new Pew poll indicating that a majority of Americans believe it's time to move away from the policy of mandatory minimum sentencing in nonviolent criminal cases. Many people probably don't realize that in the American legal system, judges aren't actually permitted to do their jobs and judge. Their authority is curtailed by statutes that prescribe minimums for how much time a person must serve for certain crimes. This policy is particularly pernicious in situations where the crime is of a nonviolent nature, as are most minor drug offenses. The poll results represent a significant shift in public opinion since 2001, when the American public was about even split in their opinion of mandatory minimum sentencing. Like so much of our bloated federal apparatus, the prison system is flailing under the weight of an unfunded mandate. There are simply too many prisoners, and not enough resources to meet the demands of their incarceration.
When it comes to criminal sentencing, politicians and policymakers walk a tightrope. They don't want to appear to be soft on crime, but at the same time they want to demonstrate a pragmatic, effective use of public resources. One recalls how George H. W. Bush bludgeoned Michael Dukakis in the 1988 Presidential campaign with the Willie Horton case, a lamentable miscarriage of justice that garnered national attention. In 1974, Horton fatally stabbed a gas station attendant and dumped his body in a trashcan. Convicted of murder, Horton was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole and incarcerated in a Massachusetts prison. He was released in 1985 as part of a weekend furlough program but never returned, instead fleeing to Maryland where he raped a woman after brutally assaulting her boyfriend. He was later captured, tried, and sentenced in Maryland by a judge who refused to return him to Massachusetts stating, "I'm not prepared to take the chance that Mr. Horton might again be furloughed or otherwise released. This man should never draw a breath of free air again."
Politicians across the country didn't miss the lesson of that campaign, and ever since they have wanted to appear tough on crime. The reality, however, is that we simply can't afford to lock up every criminal who runs afoul of the criminal justice system. In 2011 the Atlantic ran a piece on the skyrocket cost of incarceration in America. At that time, one year at Princeton cost $37,000, while a year at a New Jersey state prison cost $44,000. Clearly, this is an untenable situation. So, in an era of tight budgets, how should our government mete out justice effectively and efficiently? I offer four very simple, common sense solutions: Lock them up, Tie them down, Dry them out, and Make them pay. more >>
Two Christian ministers who own an Idaho wedding chapel were told they had to either perform same-sex weddings or face jail time and up to a $1,000 fine, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court.
Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Donald and Evelyn Knapp, ordained ministers who own the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel in Coeur d'Alene.
"Right now they are at risk of being prosecuted," their ADF attorney, Jeremy Tedesco, told me. "The threat of enforcement is more than just credible." more >>
In an unusual case of forgiveness Thursday, the parents of a New Hampshire man who was shot dead in December 2011 lobbied to help free their son's killer from prison and offered to give him a home and a job on his release.
The circumstances under which Deborah and Donald St. Laurent lost their son, also named Donald St. Laurent, 29, were unusual, according to WMUR. His killer, Christopher Bazar, 29, was his best friend right up to the point when he took his last breath. And the St. Laurent family had lobbied for leniency when he was sentenced to four to 10 years in prison for manslaughter in 2012.
On Thursday, Deborah St. Laurent gave Bazar a tearful hug after he was granted parole. more >>
Ex-Colombo Crime family captain and Christian motivational speaker Michael Franzese recently spoke with CP Voice regarding his new autobiographical film "God the Father," and the possibility of preaching the Gospel to mobsters he had worked with.
"God the Father" represents a play on words from the American mafia classic "The Godfather." During the film, Franzese tells his life story growing up in the mob which eventually lead to a top position in the organization's Colombo family. It also discusses the turning point in his life when he accepted Jesus Christ and turned away from his old ways.
During the CP Voice segment, Franzese talked about what it was like when he made that decision to commit his life to Jesus, and if he ever tried to witness to other mob members more >>
Josh Kimbrell, 29, a Christian talk radio host and chairman of the Palmetto Conservative Alliance Foundation in South Carolina, was arrested and charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a 3-year-old boy. His supporters, however, have shot down the charge, saying it stems from a bitter custody battle between him and his ex-wife.
Arrest warrants from Greenville Police accuse Kimbrell, who hosts Common Cents radio show weekdays on 92.9FM/660AM, of playing a game with the minor that involved inappropriate touching and fondling, according to FOX Carolina.
A statement issued by the board of directors of Palmetto Conservative Alliance challenged the accusations as a character assassination by Kimbrell's ex-wife, who is currently locked in a custody battle with him over their 3-year-old son. more >>
Approximately 50 people, including several members of clergy, were arrested in Ferguson, Missouri as part of a "weekend of resistance" against police brutality in the town.
One of those arrested was activist, author, and professor Cornel West, who teaches Philosophy and Christian Practice at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. West is known for his activism and was proud to be arrested in Ferguson.
"It's a beautiful thing to see people on fire for justice, but I didn't come here to give a speech; I came here to go to jail," West said at a rally on Saturday night. "The larger system has been victimizing and coming at them [black youth]. Thank God the awakening is setting in, and any time the awakening sets in it gets a little messy." more >>