Rape

Mandatory Minimums Aren’t the Answer to Sexual Assault

We can't let one bad judgement tempt us signal feminism by sacrificing justice.

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With widespread furor over the handling of a recent rape case in California, the demand for lawmakers to do something has led to several new bills in the state legislature. But one proposed remedy—creating a mandatory minimum prison sentence for those convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious or intoxicated person—will do more harm than good, as a Thursday op-ed in The New York Times warns.

Brock Turner mugshot

The case that sparked this proposal involves a Stanford student named Brock Turner, who was caught sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. In June, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Brock to just six months in prison, though he faced a possible prison sentence of 15 years.

"We need to send the message that sexually assaulting vulnerable victims who are intoxicated or unconscious is a serious crime," said California Assemblyman Bill Dodd (D-Napa), who helped craft one mandatory minimum proposal (AB 2888) with Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) and Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo). "Letting a rapist off with probation and little jail time re-victimizes the victim, dissuades other victims from coming forward and sends the message that sexual assault is no big deal."

Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D-San Jose) said she plans to sponsor her own legislation involving sexual assault of unconscious victims.

But harsh, inflexible sentences that give judges no discretion aren't the answer, as we've seen in other areas where mandatory minimums have been popular, namely drug offenses. We can't let one bad judgement tempt us signal feminism by sacrificing justice. People across the political spectrum have been recognizing the problems with mandatory minimums when it comes to drugs. [More on those problems here and here.] We shouldn't ignore these lessons when it comes to sex crimes.

Both the left and the right are guilty of this ignorance, though liberal activists tend to be worse, throwing their weight behind any carceral excess they can if it relates to sexual violence, coercion, or harassment. Kudos to Alexandra Brodsky, editor of Feministing and head of the anti-campus rape group Know Your IX, for standing against the outrage brigade here. While Brodsky's group stands in opposition to civil libertarian beliefs about Title IX on campus, she and op-ed co-writer Claire Simonich—both recent graduates of Yale Law School—are right on mandatory minimums.

"We share in the outrage at Mr. Turner's actions, but worry that this law could cause more harm than good," write Brodsky and Simonich in the Times. "History shows that this reform would not deter violence and most likely would perpetuate punitive racial and class disparities." As they explain,

During the second half of the 20th century, federal and state governments established mandatory minimum sentences, with a special focus on drug offenses. Many supporters saw minimums as a way to be "tough on crime," but some also saw an opportunity to reduce disparities in sentences. Reformers worried that people like Brock Turner, white men with access to expensive lawyers, received more lenient sentences than minorities and poor people charged with the same crimes. These advocates hoped that minimums might make sentences fairer.

Unfortunately, mandatory minimums have proved a failed experiment, contributing to prison overcrowding, racial imbalances and overly punitive sentences — all without, studies show, reducing crime.

Because criminal laws are written expansively, mandatory minimums shift sentencing power from judges to prosecutors, who can effectively choose the sentence when they decide which of a range of eligible charges to bring against a defendant. And while defendants can appeal judges' opinions, decisions made by prosecutors are nearly impossible to challenge.

Although mandatory minimums were meant to reduce disparities, in practice they hurt the populations some reformers sought to protect. Minorities and people with lower incomes are more likely to be arrested, and then more likely to be charged with crimes that carry higher mandatory minimums than others who commit the same act.

Read the whole thing here.

Others in the feminist and legal communities have spoken out against creating new mandatory minimums for rape as well. "The dominant response to the [Brock Turner] case has been to call for more punishment as a way to increase the protection and standing of women in the United States," writes Sarah Cate at Common Dreams.

In the flurry of opinion pieces and media coverage of the Turner case a familiar zero-sum frame of debate has developed: punishment for the perpetrator is seen as helpful for women and leniency for the perpetrator is seen as harmful for women. This narrow framework for debate has crowded out any consideration of how we can address sexual violence without reanimating calls for harsh sentences, which are ineffective at improving the equality and safety of women and, moreover, harmful for efforts to roll back mass incarceration.

San Francisco photographer and community organizer Charisse Domingo urged people to look to history here. Policies such as the mandatory-minimums for drug offenses and "three strikes" legislation "are extreme reactions that prey on the immediate, unnamed fears of the larger public," writes Domingo.

Some of these laws, like Three Strikes, were conceived because of horrible singular incidents, like the Turner case, yet the ones who have borne the brunt of the acts of one person has been people of color. These are the moments when the narrative of crime is constructed and re-constructed by the social, economic, and political intersections of our time.

The feminist group UltraViolet has been active at trying to get the judge who sentenced Turner removed, but opposed creating a new mandatory minimum for rape. It's "not only bad policy generally, but also the wrong solution for this case," said UltraViolet co-founder Nita Chaudhary in a statement. Doing so "does nothing to hold Judge Persky … accountable for his decision."

"While it is long past time that our justice system take the crime of rape seriously," said Chaudhary, "we need judges who focus on finding justice for rape survivors, not the re-hashing of bad policies that rig the system against poor people and people of color."

This isn't the first time in recent years that California lawmakers have proposed some sort of mandatory minimums for sexual assault. A failed 2015 bill would have mandated that public and private colleges in California impose at least two years school suspension to anyone convicted of sexual misconduct. The bill passed both houses of the state legislature, but was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown, who said "I don't think it's necessary at this point for the state to directly insert itself into the disciplinary and governing processes of all private and nonprofit colleges in California."

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79 responses to “Mandatory Minimums Aren’t the Answer to Sexual Assault

  1. Hey, ENB, in the line “[More on those problems here, here, and here.]”, the link in the third “here” is missing.

  2. I still don’t know all the details about this story. What I gathered was that they were both blacked out drunk and all over each other and then she passed out and he started taking advantage of her in an alley after she passed out. Am I wrong?

    1. It was like that time back in ‘Nam…

      1. That wasn’t a drunk girl, that was a dead cow.

    2. She was passed out and he was penetrating her with his fingers. When two passers-by challenged him, he took off running. One tackled him and held him until campus police arrived. No one could be found that testified that Turner and the girl had any interaction at the party and no one saw them leave together.

  3. Mandatory minimums plus a desire to do away with due process…whoo boy.

  4. We can’t let one bad judgement tempt us signal feminism by sacrificing justice.

    Missing “to” between “signal” and “feminism?”

    1. “tempt us signal to feminism”?

  5. It is better that a hundred innocent men be imprisoned than one guilty man walk free. Of course there are no “innocent” men, not even the gays. /dworkinite

    1. Hey, if a few guys get railroaded in the name of social justice, Ezra Klein thinks that’s a pretty good deal. After all, as ENB has explained to us, social justice has noble goals even when its tactics are somewhat questionable.

  6. “Kudos to Alexandra Brodsky, editor of Feministing …”

    I’ll take Sentences I Never Thought I’d Read on Reason for 400, Alex.

  7. Nice to see that the Honorable Congressman Dodd does believe sexual assault and rape are the same thing.

  8. “History shows that this reform would not deter violence and most likely would perpetuate punitive racial and class disparities.”

    Lol. “Lie back and think of disparate impact, ladies”.

  9. So the real problem with mandatory minimums is teh racismz.

  10. The feminist group UltraViolet has been active at trying to get the judge who sentenced Turner removed,

    That is just as damaging to the system as minimum mandatory sentences. Telling every judge that giving any defendant a break means taking the risk of being kicked out of office will have the same or probably worse effect than minimum mandatory sentences. Under minimum mandatory, at least the judge will default to the minimum. Start terrorizing judges with the threat of removal and they are likely to start hammering people worse just to be safe and also likely to hammer socially unpopular defendants even more.

    Unless there is some evidence that this judge gave this guy a break for impermissible reasons (i.e. he only sentences black men convicted of rape to long sentences or he knew the convicted’s family) or that he just refuses to give appropriately harsh sentences at all, then no one should say shit about this judge. The last thing we need given our already harsh justice system is for judges to feel like they are not allowed to ever give a convicted person a break.

    The feminist group is no better than the people demanding minimum mandatory sentences.

    1. Fuck this judge and fuck judges in general. They’re no more special than any other functionary in the legal system. If they can’t justify to the voters who elected them why they made a legitimate decision to give somebody a break vs. indulging in good-ol-boy cronyism then maybe they really do deserve to get tossed out of office.

      1. I don’t disagree, but John’s point is well taken, if they feel threatened, they’ve proven over time that the result is harsher treatment of defendants.

      2. You completely miss the point Pat. If you think going after judges for the crime of giving a light sentence that the community doesn’t like is a good idea, you don’t really understand how incentives work and how they produce unintended consequences.

        The bottom line is if you are not willing to live with the occasional bad sentence, then what is your problem with minimum mandatory sentences? If this guy getting off easy is just a problem, that is one way to solve it. You can’t give judges and juries discretion and then have a fit every time they don’t do exactly what you want. Them doing things you don’t like is part of the package when you give them the authority.

  11. I had the best post ever eaten by squirrels.

    Suffice it to say, it’s ridiculous for California to push mandatory minimums when they’ve been forced to release violent offenders (sexual assault, wife beaters, et. al.) to alleviate overcrowding . . . for more than a decade.

    A federal judge ruled that California’s state prisons were so overcrowded that it amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. They ordered the state to alleviate overcrowding–more than a decade ago. But it’s not like they can spend money to build new prisons what with outrageous CEQA requirements and other more important budgetary matters–like funding outrageous pension benefits for state employees or building a bullet train to nowhere.

    One of the things they’ve done to alleviate the overcrowding was to send prisoners to county jails–but that’s just forced the counties to start releasing people early to alleviate their own overcrowding problems.

    So, really, what the point of increasing mandatory minimums when the state is forced to release violent offenders early because of overcrowding?

    1. “So, really, [what’s] the point of increasing mandatory minimums when the state is forced to release violent offenders early because of overcrowding?”

      I.e., How long they’re sentenced doesn’t incapacitate them. It’s how long they serve.

    2. This could be easily solved by shooting the prisoners instead. Murder, rape, and other “capital” crimes should qualify for such treatment.

      1. Rape isn’t actually a capital crime anywhere, and saying that the justification for imposing capital punishment is the commission of capital crimes has at least one major flaw.

        http://tinyurl.com/lefb69s

        1. The intrinsic major flaw of capital punishment is its implementation by selfish, fallable humans. I guess I see no reason that people who confess to capital crimes shouldn’t be executed, aside from he potential for abuse, which makes me rethink that a little, but killing someone is making the ultimate (in many ways) decision of their lives for them. That should require 100% certainty about guilt to be justifiable, I think.

  12. The feminist group UltraViolet has been active at trying to get the judge who sentenced Turner removed, but opposed creating a new mandatory minimum for rape. It’s “not only bad policy generally, but also the wrong solution for this case,” said UltraViolet co-founder Nita Chaudhary in a statement. Doing so “does nothing to hold Judge Persky … accountable for his decision.”

    Feminist organization says something with which I agree. Huh.

    *notes date and time*

    1. “Surprisingly, after cognitive dissonance is removed from the Ultraviolet MO, the overall headaches, anxiety issues, and sick days decreased dramatically. Further research is needed, however.”

  13. I disagree. Sort of. Mandatory minimum sentences are merely misguided efforts to band-aid over a broken system. Part of the problem with our “justice” system is, in fact, the variable sentences for the same criminal statutes.

    Take two defendants, both first time offenders of exceedingly similar crimes, we’ll say, physically assaulting a rival and doing roughly the same amount of damage and injury. Now, both plead guilty, but one has the resources to hire a spiffy defense attorney and gets off with probation. The other fella, though, he has to rely on a public defendant and, as a result, spends six months in jail. These are, decidely, unequal dispensations of “justice” and completely fly in the face of the principle of “equal treatment under the law”.

    If a particular criminal act warrants six months in jail for one perpetrator, then it ought to warrant six months for every perpetrator. Any variance ought to be established in the statute(s) (e.g.: first conviction under statute A is X, second is Y, third and subsequent are Z). Neither judges nor juries should get to choose to soften or harden penalties. That just perpetuates a system of class tiers in law and justice (the peasants suffer one set of rules and punishments, the aristocracy & gentry another, and the Kings’ Men yet another…).

    1. Note: “Victimless crime” is an oxymoron and non-violent crimes should be handled via restitution to the victim(S) rather than incarceration.

    2. If a particular criminal act warrants six months in jail for one perpetrator, then it ought to warrant six months for every perpetrator

      No it shouldn’t Every crime and every circumstance is different. Two people are guilty of breaking and entering and theft. One person has broken into his ex girlfriend’s house because he is angry over the break up and steals the girlfriend’s grandmother’s wedding ring and tosses it in the river as revenge. Another person is guilty of breaking and entering after he breaks into and impound lot and takes his car back because he needed it to get to work and the towing company was completely fucking him with storage fees that he couldn’t afford to pay.

      Both people are guilty of the same crime. No way do they both deserve the same punishment.

      1. Both people are guilty of the same crime. No way do they both deserve the same punishment.

        Both of your examples are non-violent property crimes. (I am assuming that by “breaking and entering” you meant that there was no one present at the time and no one was assaulted.)

        I would argue that the punishment is restitution to the victims for assessed real damages, not incarceration or fines to the state. However, the latter example offers an opportunity for the “defendant” to argue “self-defense”. If he can prove that the towing company maliciously towed his car and was “completely fucking with him”, then, ideally, having been the originating victimizer (steeling a car), the towing company should be required to pay restitution to the car owner (minus damages to the property when the owner reclaimed his car).

        1. You can’t say the punishment for stealing is restitution. That is absurd. What is the deterrent for stealing if the punishment is just having to give the stuff back? If that were the case, pretty much everyone would start stealing. Why not? You either get away with it and keep the loot or you get caught and have to give it back, which is no big deal since it wasn’t yours to start with.

          If you don’t like my examples, I will give you another. One man murders the man who raped his young daughter. Another man stalks and murders a woman he met on facebook. Both crimes have a victim and both crimes are premeditated murder. But no way should the punishment be the same.

          1. You can’t say the punishment for stealing is restitution…

            Sure I can. And, I am, by far, not the only one.

            … What is the deterrent for stealing if the punishment is just having to give the stuff back? …

            We can borrow from Rothbard’s, _The Ethics of Liberty_, and double the value. His argument is that, in order to punish the offender, he must be deprived to the same degree that he stole. Therefore, Rotbard effectively argued, if a theif stole $100 worth of something, he would be sanctioned $200. First, restoring the $100 he stole, and then being deprived the same amount again. Alternatively, or additionally, you could order that said theif restore the victim and pay for the victim’s time in court as well as court and associated costs.

            … One man murders the man who raped his young daughter. Another man stalks and murders a woman he met on facebook. Both crimes have a victim and both crimes are premeditated murder. But no way should the punishment be the same…

            There are three ways to handle that:
            1.) Code statutes for different “degrees” of murder; perhaps including “justifiable homicide”.
            2.) Prosecutorial discretion in charging.
            3.) Jury nullification.

      2. No it shouldn’t Every crime and every circumstance is different.

        I don’t entirely disagree. That should be taken into account when writing the statutes.

        You are arguing WRT our system as it is. I am arguing that the system is broken and giving some insight into what I believe should be; Libertopian Fantasizing (a euphemism for “mental masturbation”), if you will.

        Peaceable conduct should not be illegal (i.e.: no victimless “crimes”); non-violent crimes should be adjudicated with restitution to the victim(s); and if the state must incarcerate someone, the sentence should be the same for everyone convicted under the appropriate statute(s).

        1. [The fact that every crime and every circumstance is different] should be taken into account when writing statutes.

          You’re assuming that legislators can account for every factual variation before it happens. They can’t, and that’s one of the major problems of codifying everything.

  14. “Victimless crime” is an oxymoron

    Who is the victim when I buy weed from a grower?

    1. Both of you, as you’ve each harmed yourselves by defying the powers that be.

    2. I think what he meant is the “crime” is obviated by lack of a victim. If it was victimless, there was no crime. In your weed purchase scenario, there was no victim, hence no crime, so no possibility of there having been a “victimless crime”.

      1. I was willing to allow himself to explain, and that’s not a bad one.

        However, to some extent that ignores reality, as we’re not the arbiters of what is and is not a crime.

        1. I was willing to allow himself to explain, and that’s not a bad one.

          What Pat (PM) said. If there is no victim, there is no crime.

          However, to some extent that ignores reality, as we’re not the arbiters of what is and is not a crime.

          No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the natural rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him. – Thomas Jefferson

          My operating definition of “criminal” is rooted in my understanding of natural law and the Non-Aggression Principle. Namely, if behavior does not aggress against another it is permissible. Conversely, only behavior that aggresses against another (i.e.: has a victim) is verboten and, therefore, criminal.

          As such, I recognize that [certain] victimless behaviors are illegal and that makes them “criminal” in legal terms and under the state’s monopoly on force. That does not, however, make them “criminal” in truth. Any statutes that criminalize any peaceable conduct ought to be null and void. Legislators passing laws to the contrary does not make it just, proper, or even correct; it merely makes it illegal.

          1. My operating definition of “criminal” is rooted in my understanding of natural law and the Non-Aggression Principle.

            Fine, good even, but what use is any of that in a world that not only disagrees with you, but will lock you up?

            I simply can’t discuss policy in an idealized world. I don’t have that ability.

            1. Fine, good even, but what use is any of that in a world that not only disagrees with you, but will lock you up?

              /shrug/ Tilting at windmills, maybe, but there are, obviously, some people in the world that agree. And each dissenter that we persuade, is one fewer that disagrees and one step a “idealized world”.

    3. The government is the victim because they didn’t get their cut.

      1. ^^THIS^^

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  16. alt-text: Robby after a 3 day fruit sushi binge

    1. Slanderous sushi shaming is shameful.

      1. I’m just jealous that I’m not cool enough to try fruit sushi

        1. Throw some peeled and sliced fruit in a bowl and then add some rice. I don’t know why you would want to do that, though.

          1. Because some of us can’t eat raw fish! I’m so triggered right now.

            1. Of course you can. Don’t make me explain how to be pregnant, because if there is one thing I know it’s how to be a pregnant woman.

  17. “Instead of releasing state prison inmates, California simply moved them to county jails. After the case was argued but before Court issued its opinion the California legislature passed the 2011 Public Safety Realignment initiative, or AB 109.[31] State officials felt it was inefficient that the state was subject to a 46,000 prisoner reduction order while the county jails contained 10,000 empty beds.[14] As such, the legislation restructured California’s penal system mostly by shifting prison inmates, which are subject to the court order and an expense to the state, to county jails, which are not subject to the court order and are an expense of the counties.[32] Almost 500 felonies were redefined by the legislature so that they could only be served in county jail”

    Wiki on Brown v. Plata

    http://tinyurl.com/zgqa3ld

    1. Meanwhile, at the county jail:

      “The releases are benefiting even inmates sentenced to jail for violence and sex crimes, with those offenders released after serving as little as 40% of the time they were meant to spend behind bars, according to Sheriff’s Department records obtained by The Times under the California Public Records Act.”

      “Even violent and sex offenders released early by L.A. County Jail”
      Los Angeles Times
      August 31, 2013

      http://tinyurl.com/jzz5hrb

      If there is one primary cause of convicted sex offenders not being held in prison long enough, it isn’t because the sentences are too short. It’s because Sacramento would rather squander money on social programs, environmentalist pipe dreams, the outrageous pensions of our state employees, etc.–rather than fund prison construction, which, as part of our criminal justice system, is an essential function of government.

  18. I believe people misdiagnose the problem. It isn’t that a judge could hand down love-tap sentencing for guilty defendants with whom he identifies; the problem is that a judge would do this.

    The defendant knew what he was doing was wrong, and he did it anyway. If you listen to the kid’s attorneys and father speak, you get the idea that he also thinks what he did was perfectly reasonable. The judge thought that sentence was reasonable. Hey, man, this is You Can’t Do That America, where every one of us violates some traffic regulation, municipal ordinance, law or agency policy on an essentially daily basis. We all think what we’re doing is reasonable. We only listen to the law if we think that it, too, is reasonable.

    People think that if we just found the right law, the one that took away an individual’s freedom to do something without having any bad side effects whatsoever, a law that changed people into better people, that this would all work out differently this time.

    A law has become little more than another tool for the bad actors. We don’t need more laws, we need fewer bad officials. The judge is not qualified for his job. Fire him, don’t change the job definition to “only hands down long sentences”.

    Sheesh.

    1. We don’t need more laws, we need fewer bad officials

      Yes.

    2. The problem is that all of society has decided that justice can only be served by locking people in cages for decades and the only proper function of our courts is to provide society with revenge on the convicted. Everyone assumes this is an injust sentence. I don’t think that is obvious at all.

      Understand the guy is now a convicted sex offender. He is also a felon for life. On top of that he is going to prison for six months, which is a long time if you are the guy sitting in jail. Suppose they had given him 15 years. Would that have made this guy less likely to reoffend? I doubt it. This guy already is marked for life and is one more offense away from going away forever. I think he is unlikely to reoffend whether he goes to jail for six months or sixty years.

      Would sending him to prison have made the victim feel better? Probably. But would it have made the damage to her life any less? No. It would only make her feel better because of the satisfaction of revenge. Is her desire for revenge really enough to make this sentence unacceptable? I don’t think so. Because if it is, then every sentence should be harsh no matter what the circumstances as long as the victim is really pissed off.

      1. That’s not a bad point, and it’s one I lean toward myself, though bugger if there would have been room in my previous screed to add it in.

        This isn’t discipline. This is punishment, which is a short-term bandage that offers only sporadic success.

        We can label him, restrict him at gunpoint in a variety of ways, but we can’t make him think differently. And looking at the methods they are using in this particular case, it doesn’t seem likely to be effective for that purpose.

        1. If the guy is a threat, then you have to lock him up and keep him there for the safety of the rest of society. If he is what he appears to be, a complete dumb ass with poor impulse control and judgement, then you have to lock him up long enough for him to get the message that he needs to figure out better impulse control. You also need to do enough to him that the victim feels vindicated enough that they won’t go looking for revenge on their own. That figure is likely higher than what it would take to get the message to this clown.

          Both numbers are likely a hell of a lot lower than what most people would want or what most convicted actually get. There are some people and some crimes that I would happily send the convicted away for life or for decades if I were the judge. There are a lot of them, particularly first time offenders where I would give sentences that would shock the conscience of a lot of people. But I am just come to the conclusion locking everyone up for decades, even for serious and real crimes, is not usually the just thing to do.

      2. Would sending him to prison have made the victim feel better? Probably. But would it have made the damage to her life any less? No. It would only make her feel better because of the satisfaction of revenge. Is her desire for revenge really enough to make this sentence unacceptable? I don’t think so. Because if it is, then every sentence should be harsh no matter what the circumstances as long as the victim is really pissed off.

        My understanding was that, at least in part, the victim’s situation and mentality (and this drives at your point of UltraViolet needing to fuck off) contributed to the leniency. IIRC, she didn’t consider herself exceedingly violated or damaged in any way and wasn’t exactly demanding justice or vengeance as much as hoping the perpetrator gets help and/or doesn’t repeat offend.

        1. Whoops,
          If you are hoping that one of my organs will implode from anger and I will die, I’m almost there. You are very close. This is not a story of another drunk college hook?up with poor decision making. Assault is not an accident. Somehow, you still don’t get it.
          my mistake.

    3. The US sends people to jail for longer periods than virtually any country in the world. Maybe we should reconsider that. What are we really accomplishing beyond revenge by sending everyone convicted of a serious crime to jail for decades? If they are repeat offenders who clearly pose a threat to society, sure. They leave us no choice then. But cases of first time offenders who are likely to have learned their lesson, what the hell is the point?

      1. The US sends people to jail for longer periods than virtually any country in the world. Maybe we should reconsider that…

        I did. I suggested that non-violent crimes ought to be adjudicated with restitution rather than incarceration. But, you poo-pooed that as absurd. Oh well.

      2. Jobs and politicians being able to claim to be tough on crime.
        Or you know, money and power.

  19. “But one proposed remedy?creating a mandatory minimum prison sentence for those convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious or intoxicated person?will do more harm than good, as a Thursday op-ed in The New York Times warns.”

    So I guess it’s a proggy slap fight between feminists and the soft-on-crime crowd?

    I don’t know what to think of this.

    Mandatory minimums can basically be bypassed by the prosecutor and the defendant by negotiating a plea deal – so in one sense the “mandatory” part is a joke and simply gives prosecutors an extra tool to coerce guilty pleas.

    On the other hand, someone who likes to violate drunk or unconscious women seems like a candidate for prison to me. Such crimes are really a Bad Thing.

    I don’t really know what to think, and as one of the links earlier showed, I’m too intelligent and lazy to read the whole article.

    1. I would have thought that the point of reducing sentences for certain crimes (eg, nonviolent drug crimes) was to free up prison space for more serious crimes with obvious victims (eg, having sex with a passed-out woman).

      I get the impression that “criminal justice reform” is going to mean reducing sentences across the board for violent *and* nonviolent crimes until we’re Europe.

      1. I would point out that minimum sentencing causes problems even with classes of violent crimes. For example, an 18 year old has consensual sex with his 16 year old girlfriend, it is technically rape. Now, is it fair that a minimum sentencing law require that he do 5 years in prison for doing something that, frankly, isn’t wrong, but happens to be illegal?

        And even if a crime is committed, it shouldn’t be considered evil rape apologist misogyny whatever to point out that some crimes are less severe than other. A drunken guy tries to cop a feel with his girlfriend and she rebuffs him. That’s technically sexual assault. Should he have to spend a few years in prison because some other guy who did something worse only got six months and legislators predictably overreacted?

        I’m also inclined to ask why grown women statutorily raping little boys and getting off with probation never spurred demands for criminal sentencing, and whether such crimes will be punished the same under such a policy. I suspect not, like most gender-oriented policies, and call me a selfish prick, but see no reason to support a policy that will most likely be enforced in a manner that is sexist against the sex to which I belong. Everyone else does identity politics these days, why shouldn’t I.

        1. Well, I don’t actually know enough details here, I see the people who think prisons are teh racist versus the people who think an innocence is no defense to rape…so between these groups, which has the right view here?

          1. I think it’s like a reverse version of ‘let god sort out which are his.’ Basically, some relatively innocuous people might actually not get screwed over by the justice way more than they deserved, just by accident, because progressives are afraid of seeming racist. In the end, I bet both will get their way though. All they need is to get the ‘right’ judges in place, and they can hand the judges back their discretion in sentencing; their judges can then proceed to tack on extra years for being white or male even for a crime that is really ‘malum prohibitum’ rather than ‘malum in se’ (like the 18 year old sleeping with the 16 year old) or let off an actual violent offender because they belong to a ‘marginalized group.’ Eventually you can make it so a murderer can get a lighter sentence than Martha Stewart got for insider trading without ever having to pass actual discriminatory legislation. You just need the right judges.

  20. It’s distressing that one (supposedly) bad decision is being used as an excuse to strip away judicial discretion in one more area, which (while imperfect) makes sure the criminal justice system is actually fair. Mandatory minimums is a major contributing factor to the destruction of countless neighborhoods in this country as part of the Drug War.

  21. “Sexually assaulting an unconscious or intoxicated person”

    Hmmmm…

    If I understand correctly, the “unconscious or intoxicated” part makes it sexual assault, per se.

    The think I can’t help wondering is how loudly the feminists would howl if guys started leveraging these laws. More often than not, when the girl is drunk, so is the guy. And I don’t see how you get around him being able to press charges without throwing away the 14th Amendment.

    1. They don’t believe men can be sexually assaulted by women. When a feminist says sexual assault, the words “against women” are assumed in the definition. Incidentally, most men more or less agree.

      From the surveys I’ve seen, ironically, if one applies a gender neutral definition of sexual assault, men are sexually assaulted by women at almost as high a rate as women by men, but men are generally either take an ambivalent to positive attitude toward being ‘sexually assaulted’ or ‘harassed’ by women. In the end, the gender disparity here is far less one of fact than one of perception.

  22. Minorities and people with lower incomes are more likely to be arrested, and then more likely to be charged with crimes that carry higher mandatory minimums than others who commit the same act.

    I once argued to a traffic court judge that “I was just going with the (speeding) flow” and he countered with “Well, Mr. Rich, the police can pull over only one car at a time.”

  23. Am I the only one who finds feminists’ opposition to minimum sentencing more troubling than reassuring, given the reasons presented? Essentially, the argument is that minimum sentencing could hurt black people more than white people, as though if the policy could be applied only to white men, it would be just fine.

    The impression I get is they just want a way to target their witch hunts against white men specifically. As a white man, obviously that doesn’t reassure me.

    Opposing a bad policy for reasons which are arguable even worse than the principles motivating that policy is not a good sign.

  24. “Minorities and people with lower incomes are more likely to be arrested, and then more likely to be charged with crimes that carry higher mandatory minimums than others who commit the same act.”
    This is perfectly true for men as well. I wonder when feminist progressives are going to start saying ‘we can’t pass that law, it will disproportionately harm men, as such laws always do!” I don’t suppose it will ever occur to them that this precise argument, applied to gender instead of race, would serve just as well as a reason to oppose the Violence Against WOmen Act, but if one does that, one is somehow a reactionary instead of a progressive.

  25. The case that sparked this proposal involves a Stanford student named Brock Turner, who was caught sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.

    Why don’t we do it behind a dumpster?
    Why don’t we do it behind a dumpster?
    Why don’t we do it behind a dumpster?
    Why don’t we do it behind a dumpster?
    No one will be watching us,
    Why don’t we do it behind a dumpster?

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  28. The only thing mandatory minimums are “the answer to” is, “how can we justify building more prisons?”

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