Oregon Rancher Protest Highlights the Injustice of Mandatory Minimums

The Hammond case illustrates how federal law forces judges to impose sentences they consider grossly disproportionate.



When Dwight and Steven Hammond arrived at a federal prison in California on Monday, it was the second time they went away for the same crimes. In my latest Forbes column, I explain how that happened and why it sparked a protest in Oregon:

The occupation of buildings at Oregon's Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by a group of armed and disgruntled ranchers has brought national attention to a case that illustrates the injustices wrought by mandatory minimum sentences. The men who took over the buildings last Saturday, led by Nevada rancher Ammon Bundy, broke off from a protest in support of Dwight and Steven Hammond, father-and-son Oregon ranchers who were each sentenced to five years in federal prison for setting brush-clearing fires that spread to public land. Unfortunately, the intense hostility that the occupation has aroused among progressives has overshadowed a case that otherwise could help advance a transideological alliance in favor of reforming our excessively rigid and punitive criminal justice system, which is especially rigid and punitive in its treatment of drug offenders.

Read the whole thing.