Sentencing Reform

Ted Cruz and Chuck Grassley Switch Places on Sentencing Reform

Why is Cruz, a critic of disproportionate penalties, trying to sink the bill with the best chance of passing?

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Senate Judiciary Committee

Yesterday Matt Welch noted that Ted Cruz, once a leading Republican advocate of sentencing reform, has repositioned himself as an opponent, warning that letting federal prisoners out early will lead to an increase in crime. This reversal is especially startling because the bill that Cruz opposes as dangerously soft on crime is less ambitious than the one he proudly cosponsored last spring.

In October the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act by a vote of 15 to 5. Cruz was one of the five members, all Republicans, who voted no on the bill. The others were Orrin Hatch (Utah), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), David Vitter (La.), and David Perdue (Ga.)—all law-and-order types who have never been fans of sentencing reform. Cruz, by contrast, was an original cosponsor of the Smarter Sentencing Act, introduced last February by Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.). 

Both bills would make the lighter crack penalties that Congress approved in 2010 retroactive, meaning that thousands of current prisoners could seek shorter sentences. Both bills would loosen the criteria for the "safety valve" that lets some nonviolent drug offenders escape mandatory minimums. Both bills would replace the mandatory life sentence for a third drug offense with a 25-year term. But the bill Cruz cosponsored goes further than the one he voted against. The Smarter Sentencing Act would cut the penalties for many drug offenses in half, reducing the 20-year, 10-year, and five-year mandatory minimums to 10 years, five years, and two years, respectively.

The penalty reductions in the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act are more modest—for example, 10 years off the 25-year mandatory minimum for a second or subsequent use of a firearm in the course of a drug trafficking offense and five years off the 15-year mandatory minimum for someone who possesses a gun after three convictions for "a violent felony or a serious drug offense." Furthermore, the bill creates two new mandatory minimums: five years for providing certain goods or services to terrorists and 10 years for "interstate domestic violence" resulting in death. It also increases, from 10 to 15 years, the maximum penalty for gun possession by various categories of people who are arbitrarily stripped of their Second Amendment rights under current law, including illegal drug users, undocumented immigrants, anyone who has ever been subjected to court-ordered psychiatric treatment, and anyone who has ever been convicted of a felony, violent or not. 

I am not alone in thinking the bill that Cruz considers recklessly lax is tougher than the one he cosponsored. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who condemned the earlier bill (the one Cruz backed) as "lenient" and "dangerous," is the lead sponsor of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which helps explain why the bill lengthens some sentences while shortening others.

What does Cruz know that Grassley doesn't? Before he voted against Grassley's bill on October 22, he said he objected to two aspects of it: "retroactivity" and reduced penalties for "criminals who have used a firearm in the commission of a crime." Neither of those concerns makes much sense.

If Congress determines that certain sentences are unjust, it hardly seems fair that current prisoners should be forced to complete them. In any event, retroactivity did not seem to bother Cruz when it was included in the Smarter Sentencing Act, which like Grassley's bill would allow currently imprisoned crack offenders to seek shorter terms under the rules enacted in 2010. According to Families Against Mandatory Minimums, that provision alone could affect up to 6,500 prisoners. Yet Cruz complains that "7,082 federal prisoners would be eligible for release" under Grassley's bill. If so, a provision Cruz has already endorsed is responsible for something like 92 percent of those potential early releases, all of which would involve people convicted of noviolent drug offenses. Given this context, Cruz's fear mongering is especially shameful:

None of us know what those 7,082 federal prisoners did; none of us know what the underlying conduct was that prosecutors may have plea-bargained down….At a time when police officers across this country are under assault right now, are being vilified right now, when we're seeing violent crime spiking in our cities across the country, I think it would be a serious mistake for the Senate to pass legislation providing for 7,082 convicted criminals potentially to be released early….I cannot go along with legislation that could result in more violent criminals being released to the streets and potentially more lives being lost.

When Cruz talks about "criminals who have used a firearm in the commission of a crime," he is referring to the aforementioned reductions in gun-related penalties, along with a provision clarifying that the enhanced mandatory minimums for repeat offenders require previous convictions, as opposed to, say, two drug sales in a single case. Contrary to Cruz's spin, the people who receive these penalties are not necessarily violent criminals, since merely possessing a gun can be considered using it in the course of a drug trafficking offense.

A well-known example is Weldon Angelos, who never brandished a gun, let along fired one, but nevertheless got hit with a 55-year mandatory minimum because he allegedly possessed a firearm when he sold marijuana to a government informant on three occasions (half a pound each time). He got five years for the first sale and 25 years for each of the other two, and the law requires that the sentences be served consecutively. Under Grassley's bill, Angelos would instead have received a 15-year sentence (five for each count), since he had no prior convictions.

Even if we pretend that everyone affected by these provisions is a violent criminal, Cruz's position is that the difference between 25 years and 15 (for repeated "use" in the course of a crime), or between 15 years and 10 (for mere possession by a repeat felon, even if he commits no other offense), is worth scuttling the entire bill. "When a violent criminal uses a gun," he says, "we should come down on that criminal like a ton of bricks." Apparently two-thirds of a ton simply will not do.

Cruz insists he still wants to do something about "disproportionate sentences for nonviolent drug offenders." Yet his tough talk is exactly the sort of demagoguery that mindlessly punitive politicians like Grassley have been spouting for years, to the dismay of reformers like Cruz. Now the two have switched places, to the dismay of those who once admired Cruz's comparatively enlightened attitude.

Addendum: Michael Collins, deputy director of the Drug Policy Alliance, notes that David Perdue, like Cruz, cosponsored the Smarter Sentencing Act before voting against the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act.

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  1. Cruz’s handlers are in charge of his politics now. That’s what happens when you run for president.

    1. This. It’s pandering (in this case to “tough on crime” retards) and handlers all the way down.

      1. So when he recently mocked an opponent for hanging out with some gays, he wasn’t being a bigoted dick. *Whew*

        1. When did he do it? I must have missed it.

  2. “The penalty reductions in the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act are more modest?for example, 10 years off the 25-year mandatory minimum for a second or subsequent use of a firearm in the course of a drug trafficking offense and five years off the 15-year mandatory minimum for someone who possesses a gun after three convictions for “a violent felony or a serious drug offense.””

    This is why America has so many people in jail – we have firearm possession charges that can throw you in prison for basically a fifth of your entire life.

  3. This is a perfect example of why I would never, never ever vote for Cruz. He used his position on sentencing reform to get this bill considered, and knowing it would pass, takes the other side for political posturing. Perfect example of how he lacks principles.

    1. Perfect example of how he lacks principles.

      Just like every other person running for president.

    2. Oh I think he has one principle.

      1. Nicole, you misspelled “principal”.

        1. Dude, she’s a girl, you can’t hold her to the same standards, you privileged cis shitlord patriarch!

        2. “I should be president” is totally a principle.

          1. “*I* should be president” is also totally a principal.

            1. A principled principal then?

              *runs*

  4. Federal Prison doesn’t punish crime. It punishes offenses against the state.

  5. Why is Cruz, a critic of disproportionate penalties, trying to sink the bill with the best chance of passing?

    The answer is in the question, methinks.

  6. I admit, this one particular issue is seriously making me rethink voting for Cruz. Like most here, I would love if Rand could be successful. But I don’t see it happening. So I was ok with supporting Cruz, even enthusiastically compared to everyone else. But this just makes him seem just like everybody else. Very dissappointing.

    1. The “Edward Snowden is a hero, no wait, a treasonous bastard” wasn’t the one that tipped that balance?

      1. Same here.

  7. “10 years for “interstate domestic violence” resulting in death”

    A violent act that causes a death isn’t already a crime with a higher penalty than 10 years?

    1. Not at the federal level.

    2. Can’t just let it be a state crime, gotta federalize it so congresscritters can get their holy roller on.

  8. Cruz is a very smart lawyer, more so than anyone at Reason Magazine. Perhaps, like many laws, the devil is in the details?

    1. +1 textbook appeal to authority
      ?1 compelling argument

    2. Yes, of course; he’s playing 3-dimensional chess with everyone in order to both appeal to a subsection of the base and get the actual bill he wants passed. Because he’s actually that smart, just like Obama.

      …or he’s just a scumbag politician who is flip-flopping as the winds blow.

      Ever heard of Occam’s Razor?

      1. Occam’s Razor?

        Cop: He’s got a knife! *pulls gun, empties magazine at Epi* Good shoot!

        1. Nine shots fired, two hit Epi, seven hit the puppy and six-year-old girl on the other side of the street.

          1. It’s just a flesh wound!

  9. Pandering to the Iowa voter. Why is this small state allowed this much power over a federal election?

    1. Jimmy Carter

    2. The people in Iowa are really different. You have all these guys driving around in pickups trucks wearing a John Deere hat and generally some of the nicest people I have ever met living in that state, and almost all of them voted for Obama twice. I have friends from there and none of them have even been able to explain this to me in a way that makes me really understand it. It’s one of those enigmatic things. The only thing I can even pin down related to their voting habits has something to do with farm subsidies, but that in no way explains 8 years of Obama to me.

      1. The only thing I can even pin down related to their voting habits has something to do with farm subsidies, but that in no way explains 8 years of Obama to me.

        Obama promised to keep the gracy train running? But then, so did McCain and Romney, so… I got nothin’.

      2. The people in Iowa are really different.

        One of the few places in the country where I don’t automatically fear the police. But even that is starting to change in the last couple of years.

      3. We had Grassley and Harkin for Senators for about three decades. Both were re-elected over and over with solid majorities. The average voter is fairly non-partisan and independent. However, the caucus system allows the true-believers in each party to control the nomination process. So we wind up with hard-left and hard-right politicians in the House and Senate.

    3. Why is this small state allowed this much power over a federal election?

      The point of the NH and Iowa primaries and caucuses is that demographically, the are a good representation of White America.

      Take Iowa for example, the median income matches up nicely to the national average, as well as the rate below poverty line, education levels, average commute time, living in same house 1 year & over, homeownership rate, retail sales per capita The breakdown by age cohort is almost 1 to 1 compared to the national population. All this with the convenience of the population being almost exactly 1 percent of the entire nation.

      1. Iowa – America’s Cornhole

      2. Hmm… I thought they’d skewed too rural to be that representative of White America. Interesting.

        1. Just for comparison, NH skews more to the Upper Middle Class, Iowa is more representative of the nation as a whole.

        2. Agriculture, blue-collar industry (manufacturing), high-tech industry, great universities (U of I medicine is one of the top in the country, and both U of I and ISU have great engineering schools), call-centers (incoming and outgoing), etc, etc.

          Also 3rd oldest population behind Florida and Arizona (retirement meccas).

          Ag is big enough that no one succeeds without bending a knee first. But the economy and population is way more diverse than that.

          1. Big insurance industry as well.

      3. The Iowa caucus is basically a filter. It is small enough that a candidate can build a solid volunteer network without spending lot of money. So if a candidate can take one of the top three slots, then it becomes easier to get media attention and to raise funds to go forward. Anyone that doesn’t make the top three, basically disappears.

        And yet, having a ton of money on hand doesn’t make it that much easier to be successful in Iowa.

  10. “When a violent criminal uses a gun,” he says, “we should come down on that criminal like a ton of bricks.”

    Please ask Ted why a criminal using a gun violently is different that say…a criminal using a ton of bricks violently

    1. than*

    2. Yea, I think that’s sort of worse than a guillotine actually. Pinstripes sure do come up with some bloody fucking messy endings.

    3. Also, I don’t think someone has to “use” a gun while committing one of these other crimes; I just believe it has to be in their possession. So if someone non-violently sells a pound of weed while having a concealed pistol on them in a holster, that triggers the extra charge.

      I’m not 100% sure on that, so take that with a grain of salt, but I believe it is the case.

      1. That is the case.

      2. I don’t think it needs to be on their person. Simply being the owner of a firearm while selling/using/buying drugs is a felony.

    4. “That’s it, Doom. Give me another excuse to pump you full of lead. So you thought you could get away with it, didn’t you? Ha! We toons may act idiotic, but we’re not stupid. We demand justice. Why, the real meaning of the word probably hits you like a ton of bricks.”

  11. Cruz is courting the super ‘E’ with the angel near it. Trump uses auto-death for cop-killers so ol’ Cruzzy needs some ammo to play with his pulpit pushers.

    1. Cruz is wooing Linda Evangelista? Is he waking her up for $10,000 a day? But I guess it does make sense for Cruz to be going after her – she is a Canadian supermodel, after all, and a lot better looking than Trump’s supermodels.

  12. His position makes sense even if you don’t agree with it. At least some of the people serving these sentences were guilty of more serious crimes that the government plea bargained down on the assumption they would receive the current sentence. So if you make this reform retroactive people who are guilty of violent crimes and who would, had the new sentencing law been in effect been prosecuted for those crimes will now be tuned loose with the ones who are not guilty of violent crimes.

    In a good number or maybe even a majority of these cases the government agreed to forgo the prosecution of violent crimes on the assumption that the drug crime would result in a stiff sentence. If you now retroactively reduce all of these sentences you are likely going to let some pretty dangerous people back out onto the streets.

    In understand his concern. In an ideal world we could have a commission that would go back and look at each case and grant clemency only to the inmates who are in fact just guilty of possession and didn’t take the possession wrap to avoid being convicted of a violent crime. That sadly is in neither of these bills. So the choice is screw people sitting in prison now or screw the victims of the violent people you let out early.

    1. You likely put more rational thought into the actual logistics of harm (however correctly or incorrectly) than the boy running for prez here who likely put more political thought into the emotional impact this decision would have upon a swarm of specific voters.

    2. “In an ideal world we could have a commission that would go back and look at each case ”

      It also reduces the enhanced mandatory minimum prison term for certain defendants who commit a high-level repeat drug offense, use a firearm in a crime of violence or drug offense after a prior conviction for such offense, or unlawfully possess a firearm after three or more prior convictions. It permits retroactive application of such reductions, after a court considers certain factors.

      1. Is that the current bill? What are the factors? Maybe you are right and Cruz is wrong about this. But I would like to hear what “after a court considers certain factors” actually would mean in practice.

        1. Is that the current bill?

          So, you rambled off a 3 paragraph post without knowing what’s in the bill? It’s not like their on Clinton’s email server or anything

    3. If those people were guilty of violent crimes then they should have been tried for them rather than getting to plead out of them. Why should innocent, or even guilty, people suffer for the state refusing to do its job?

      1. It’s bullshit anyway, the bill requires a court to reduce sentences. It’s not automatic clemency

      2. Hugh, John’s not actually making an argument, he’s just shilling for Cruz. Why waste your time with a reasoned argument with someone who isn’t using reason in the first place?

        1. Which part of “even if you don’t agree” was so difficult to understand? And I never said I agreed with Cruz here. I said I understand his point.

          The price of thinking rather than shilling is that occasionally people on the other side of an issue make sense even if they are still in your opinion wrong. it kind of sucks really. It would be much easier to go through life assuming everyone who disagrees with you is just stupid or nuts. Sadly their not.

          And for the record, I don’t agree with Cruz on this. He should support the bill. I just don’t think his reasoning is as irrational as this post makes it.

      3. I was going to respond that you don’t understand the purpose of plea agreements.

        But then I thought a bit on your point and although your wording is a little debatable (“suffer”?), I think you have a valid point.

        The purpose of a plea agreement is to “save” the state money. But why should the state “save” money? Doesn’t it have a job to do? How is the job served by taking the easy way out? If somebody belongs behind bars for 20 years for the crime they actually committed, why should they only be held for 10 years for the prosecutor’s convenience?

        1. Side note: I put “save” in scare quotes because, while they seem quite eager to reduce the cost of prosecution, they don’t seem very eager to reduce the cost of salaries and pensions.

        2. But then I thought a bit on your point and although your wording is a little debatable (“suffer”?), I think you have a valid point.

          Time in jail isn’t spend suffering?

          1. By definition, someone who accepts a plea agreement said “I’m guilty”. Calling the attending consequences “suffering” begs the question.

            1. The plea agreement is to reduce their time in jail. They obviously consider it suffering. If it was pleasurable they’d take the longer sentence.

              1. Instead of taking the plea agreement, you could have been charged, convicted, and given a longer sentence.

                Getting 10 when you “should” have gotten 20 is not suffering, relatively speaking.

                1. Getting 10 when you “should” have gotten 20 is not suffering, relatively speaking.

                  Do do 10 in the slammer and report back to us, m’kay?

                  1. Do do 10 in the slammer and report back to us, m’kay?

                    Clever. Immaterial, but clever.

                    1. You asserted that 10 years in prison isn’t suffering. You weasel word it with “relatively.”

                      There’s your immateriality.

                    2. “You asserted that 10 years in prison isn’t suffering.”

                      I took issue with Hugh’s wording, because it was categorical (“innocent, or even guilty”), I did not anywhere assert that prison is not suffering.

                      FFS

                    3. I took issue with Hugh’s wording, because it was categorical (“innocent, or even guilty”), I did not anywhere assert that prison is not suffering.

                      Getting 10 when you “should” have gotten 20 is not suffering, relatively speaking.

                      Look, I don’t want to make fun of someone with a learning disorder, so let us know.

                    4. I give up, the laser-guided obtuseness squad is out in force.

                2. So if I’m going to shoot you twice, but let you talk me into only shooting you once, you can’t really be considered in pain because you aren’t in twice that amount of pain?

                  1. So if I’m going to shoot you twice, but let you talk me into only shooting you once, you can’t really be considered in pain because you aren’t in twice that amount of pain?

                    FFS learn what “begging the question” means

                    If I deserved to be shot, then you quibbling with me over the number of shots is you giving me discretion I don’t deserve.

                    1. …and which part of that means being shot isn’t going to hurt?

                    2. …and which part of that means being shot isn’t going to hurt?

                      If I deserve to be dead, then just getting hurt is letting me off easy.

                      This is the last time I’m going to explain this.

                    3. This is the point where Kirk would double talk you into exploding.

                      ERROR. ERROR.

                    4. If I deserve to be dead, then just getting hurt is letting me off easy.

                      This is the last time I’m going to explain this.

                      You have a mental problem. There is a very, very specific reason why only you are saying the fucking insanely retarded shit about this that you spew every time, and why no one else can even really parse what you’re saying. You might want to think about that.

                      You have a super creepy obsession with how people who are incarcerated, their suffering doesn’t matter or is even deserved. It’s fucking weird. Step back and reflect. Seriously.

                    5. You have a super creepy obsession with how people who are incarcerated, their suffering doesn’t matter or is even deserved. It’s fucking weird. Step back and reflect. Seriously.

                      Do murderers and rapists exist in world? Because, unfortunately, they do exist in the real one.

                      You keep acting like everyone in prison is there because of malicious prosecutors, or an uncaring system, or some other external factor. And yes, that is the reason many people are in there, or at least why many of them are serving so much time.

                      But some people fucking belong there. They probably belong at the end of a rope. I don’t understand what part of “murderers and rapists really do exist and aren’t going to respond well to polite group therapy” is so fucking hard for so many people to understand.

                      I think you have a fundamental inability to accept that, despite the fact they make up a tiny fraction of a minority of the population, there are people who are beyond redemption for all practical purposes.

                    6. You are really fucking creepy.

                    7. You are really fucking creepy.

                      Pointing out that there exist malefactors outside of the government and that there has to be some way to deal with them may be inconvenient but it’s not creepy.

                      You can’t just vote out a serial killer.

                    8. Do murderers and rapists exist in [your] world?

                      a tiny fraction of a minority of the population

                    9. I don’t understand what part of “murderers and rapists really do exist and aren’t going to respond well to polite group therapy” is so fucking hard for so many people to understand.

                      I understand it. But I also understand that keeping them in cages is inflicting harm on them. Whether or not that harm is justified to you has no bearing on whether it is in fact harmful to them.

                    10. I understand it. But I also understand that keeping them in cages is inflicting harm on them. Whether or not that harm is justified to you has no bearing on whether it is in fact harmful to them.

                      Yes, it is a violation of their natural rights. Given the premise that they are actually guilty of a crime, and if convicted to the full extent of the law, would serve a certain sentence, and they accept a lesser sentence as part of a plea agreement for whatever reason, then they have been granted some measure of reprieve vs. the alternative.

                      The degree to which this semantic argument was necessary and/or productive remains to be seen.

                    11. I don’t think you know what “suffering” means.

            2. So if you plead guilty, jail becomes fun?

              1. So if you plead guilty, jail becomes fun?

                If you plead guilty to manslaughter when you’re really guilty of murder, I don’t doubt that you won’t be having “fun” but you did get something out of the deal.

                Hence, “begs the question”.

                1. If you plead guilty to manslaughter when you’re really guilty of murder, I don’t doubt that you won’t be having “fun” but you did get something out of the deal.

                  Hence, “begs the question”.

                  Sorry, all time spent in prison counts as suffering. I’m simply not debating it. People locked in cages are suffering.

            3. They might say they’re guilty, but that doesn’t follow that they believe they’re guilty or even that they are guilty. People cop to plea bargains all the time because the cops dupe them or they lack the resources or wherewithal to defend themselves in a trial.

              1. People cop to plea bargains all the time because the cops dupe them or they lack the resources or wherewithal to defend themselves in a trial.

                And some people cop to plea bargains because they’re really guilty of a more severe offense but the prosecution wasn’t sure it could prove the case.

                I said it “begs the question”, I didn’t say it was always and everywhere not suffering.

        3. Kbolino,

          The state’s job is to do justice and protect the public. It doesn’t have to nor should it prosecute every crime to the full letter of the law to do that. If the case ends in justice for the victim and the accused, the state has done its job even if that meant not prosecuting the accused to the full extent of the law.

          1. The state’s job is to do justice

            Then, either:

            1. The person is a threat to the public (i.e. an ongoing perpetrator of injustice) and belongs behind bars (or otherwise unable to prey upon the public) until that ceases to be.

            2. The person isn’t a threat to the public (the injustice occurred but won’t be repeated) and doesn’t belong behind bars at all.

            Saying that prosecutors should get to “plead out” potentially dangerous criminals and/or “plead up” harmless people is resolving Solomon’s test by cutting the baby in half. It doesn’t “do justice”, it just checks a box.

            1. I should have quoted the entire sentence, and not cut it off before “and protect the public.”

            2. Number one is just complete nonsense. You go to prison to pay the price for the crime you commit. Your generousness to the public is not why you go to prison. If you serve a just sentence for the crime you are convicted, the fact that you are still dangerous and likely to commit another one doesn’t mean you should stay in prison, by any reasonable definition of justice.

              And number 2 is equally stupid. You don’t send someone to prison because they are a danger to the public. You send them to prison because what they did demands some kind of price be paid as both a deterrent to other people doing it and as a way of showing the victim their suffering matters and is worthy of justice.

              By the logic of number 2, someone who gets drunk and runs over a pedestrian should not go to jail as long as the judge feels they are really sorry and will never drink again. Hell, lots of people don’t reoffend and are no danger to the public even though they made that one mistake. That may mean they get less jail time than the true public menace but it by no means should mean they never go to jail.

              This is basic stuff guys. Why are you guys so out to lunch on this issue?

              1. “This is basic stuff guys.”

                No, it’s not. Prison is for the protection of the public. Incarceration as punishment makes no sense. There are simpler and far less costly forms of punishment.

                1. Klbolino,

                  I wouldn’t say it makes no sense. I agree that corporal punishment might make more sense than prison and certainly a lot more sense than people think it does. I would not however say it makes no sense. It is certainly real punishment and deterrent for a lot of people.

                  1. It is certainly real punishment

                    For some people.

                    and deterrent for a lot of people

                    It is also a draw for a lot of people. “3 hots and a cot” is not a new phrase.

        4. The purpose of a plea agreement is to “save” the state money.

          Only incidentally. The widespread use of plea agreements converts the justice system from one with a relatively limited capacity to actually try people before jailing them, to one with a much higher capacity to jail people.

          You don’t get to our level of incarceration if everyone goes to trial. Plea deals are an essential element of the police-industrial complex.

          If they were barred, the incoming flow of prisoners would dry up a lot, as prosecutors would have to prioritize who to take to trial.

          1. Sure RC. But that is another issue. The fact that they are overused, doesn’t mean they are always improperly used or that everyone who accepts one is innocent or not guilty of even worse crimes than what they have pled.

            I disagree with Cruz. Those guys are getting out some time. And some of them are bad guys. But that is the way it goes. These sentences were immoral and should be reversed. I do, however, understand his point even if I disagree with it.

      4. Yes Hugh. The only reason they pled was because the sentence for crack was so stiff the government didn’t see the reason to prosecute them. Because the mandatory sentences were so insane, the government rationally chose to forgo prosecuting a lot of violent crimes. Why mess with prosecuting the violent crime when the guy will plead to possession and get nearly as long of a sentence?

        Those bargains were made on the assumption that the crack sentences would stick. If you now retroactively get rid of those sentences, those bargains go from being a rational use of proprietorial assets to a real endangerment to the public.

        That is the problem.

        1. Why mess with prosecuting the violent crime when the guy will plead to possession and get nearly as long of a sentence?

          Because violent crimes are immoral and drug crimes aren’t.

          If you now retroactively get rid of those sentences, those bargains go from being a rational use of proprietorial assets to a real endangerment to the public.

          Maybe it will be an incentive for the government to hire prosecutors who aren’t immoral pieces of shit.

          Hahahahaha okay that was funny.

          1. The law is the law Nikki. It must be satisfied.

          2. So what is violent crimes are immoral? The guy is in prison either way.

            And if anything it is immoral it is risking a guy getting off going after a conviction when you can get a sure conviction and long sentence through a plea bargain.

            The prosecutors’ job is to enforce the law. If you don’t like the law, blame the people who passed it. I don’t like the drug laws any more than you do. But unlike you, I realize that living in a world where prosecutors are free to enforce or not enforce whatever they choose is a lot worse.

            1. living in a world where prosecutors are free to enforce or not enforce whatever they choose is a lot worse

              Is that not exactly the world we live in?

              You are literally arguing both that it is good prosecutors have discretion and lamentable that they might have discretion.

              1. To some degree sure. But just because we don’t meet the standard doesn’t mean that I am going to agree to just abandon it altogether.

                1. What is the standard, exactly?

                  Is it punishment, or protection?

            2. Look, the prosecutors are just following orders, amirite?

              1. Yes Episiarch. And they have to answer morally for prosecuting those crimes. No question. That however doesn’t mean they should be free to refuse to do it. If they feel doing that is immoral, they should resign their position.

                The rule is, they enforce the law as written. If that conflicts with their morals, they should not take the job.

            3. If you don’t like the law, blame the people who passed it.

              I’ll also continue to blame the people who enforce it.

              And the people who carry their water.

              1. Go ahead. But the solution is to not take the job. Not pick and choose which laws you enforce.

                1. pick and choose which laws you enforce.

                  … is the job description of a state prosecutor.

          3. Maybe it will be an incentive for the government to hire prosecutors who aren’t immoral pieces of shit.

            I believe it is a requirement for the job. Take John for example. I believe he said he used to be a prosecutor. It’s obvious once you think about it.

      5. This is the heart of my objection Hugh. Allowing people to plead out is poison.

        If you have the evidence and can make the case try them or let them go. I don’t have an insider’s view of the CJ system so maybe I am just being naive.

    4. At least some of the people serving these sentences were guilty of more serious crimes that the government plea bargained down on the assumption they would receive the current sentence.

      So? The state made its deal, and now it has to live with the consequences.

      This line of argument also de facto throws the ones who didn’t commit violent crimes in the same bucket as the ones who did. Doesn’t smell much like justice to me.

      1. So? The state made its deal, and now it has to live with the consequences.

        Sure. The consequences are the guy getting the sentence he got. Going back and changing that is saying that the defendant doesn’t have to live with the consequences.

        Sorry RC, you can’t argue for changing the terms of the bargain on one hand and then on the other say “the state has to live by the bargain”. Sure the state has to live with the consequences of the bargain. And those are the guy staying in prison for the full sentence.

        1. Sorry RC, you can’t argue for changing the terms of the bargain on one hand and then on the other say “the state has to live by the bargain”.

          Of course, what’s really happening is the state is changing its own deal and not, for once, to its advantage.

  13. Quiet lol at anyone who thought Cruz was the real deal. He’s a shameless phony like the rest of them.

  14. Cruz already lost my vote with the Snowden comment. Just another statist in a long line.

    In other news. Germany leads Europe into bold new future. Free speech is so passe, comrades, it’s time to move forward towards the utopia of 1930! Sieg heil fuhrer Merkel!

    We don’t need no stankin free speech, forward comrades!

    1. “banned a far-right Internet platform that it accused of spreading “racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, homophobic and anti-Islamic content,”

      Read: anti-Merkel content.

  15. U guys hear Abe Vigoda died? Srsly?

    Man, thank God Lou Reed’s still with us.

    They got you before they got me Abe – Tom couldn’t get you off for old time’s sake. RIP, Fish

  16. http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/26/…..obit-feat/

    They got the Fish!

  17. An excellent reminder that Cruz was a prosecutor. With all the baggage that entails.

    The more he talks, the more I cool on him.

    1. Interesting how all of these ‘tea party anti-establishment’ guys suddenly become the establishment, isn’t it?

      I’m sure some of them start out as wolves in sheep’s clothing, but some of them I think actually start out as representatives of the people and then they are bought. There is too much money in politics. Getting elected Senator is like winning the lottery if you sell out right. Until that changes, nothing else will change, except for the worse.

      1. Rubio is the worst example of that.

        I’m not sure Cruz yet falls into the category of “establishment”. It just never hurts to remember that he is a former prosecutor, which means, someone who highly unlikely to be instinctively drawn to liberty and freedom, instead of state power.

  18. The New York Times also opposed sentencing reform. Maybe Mr. Cruz was swayed by theier editorial board’s arguments.

    1. I can’t imagine the NYT honesly supporting anything that’s not completely authoritarian.

  19. Yeah, I am cooling off on Cruz along with the lot of you.

    Then I remember that the only person who stands a decent chance of making the current Useful Idiot in Chief not-the-worst-ever by a mile is Hillary Clinton.

    So what are our choices? Various shit sandwiches and one rancid, reeking sewer the size of Lake Pontchartrain?

    She has been caught red handed committing felonies that would land any of us in federal prison for the rest of our lives, or even put in front of a firing squad, her list of lies is too long to fit in this forum, her policy prescriptions are horrific, and her flippant attitude and pathetic excuses are one hell of a disgusting display. Her incompetence allowed a US ambassador to be raped, murdered and dragged through the streets and all she had to say was WDATPDIM, for fucks sake. Her feeble defenses of herself are evidence of the contempt she has for us.

    The worst we can say about Cruz is that he isnt stellar on cj reform and switched on Snowden?

    I don’t really care who wins anymore as long as it isnt The Canklebeast. They will be light years better than what we have now and infinitely better than Hillary.

    1. I break it down like this: in a hard blue state, vote LP if the R nominee is not someone you can stomach.
      In a purple state, truly consider the R nominee. If it’s Cruz, I don’t know how the board would split in that purple state. I don’t think I could vote for him, but I’d have less anger if he wins.

      1. To me, Hillary is the Patriots of politics. I’ll always root for the opponent.

        Will I vote for the Repub, whoever it is? Doubtful. I’m voting less and less these days, so this could well be the first Presidential election I don’t vote in.

        1. I’ll vote for anybody against Hillary and if she ends up not running I probably won’t vote at all because none of them are worth it. Of course if Bloomberg ends up running I’d have to vote against him as well. I guess these days we aren’t so much voting for the lesser of two evils we are voting to specifically keep some people out.

  20. Why?
    Perhaps news of rising violent crime has him rethinking the issue of letting these people out of their cages.

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