Time to end mandatory minimum sentencing
Boston Globe - 03/18/2015
The long-simmering debate over mandatory minimum sentencing in Massachusetts has reached a boiling point.
Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court has admirably lobbied against mandatory minimum sentencing in drug cases, a legislative proscription that compels judges to sentence drug offenders to a minimum amount of time in prison without the ability to impose a more lenient punishment if warranted. As Gants has aptly noted, this one-size-fits-all philosophy has produced absurd results, including draconian sentences for relatively benign offenses, equally harsh terms for low-level drug couriers as for major drug lords, and disproportionately harsh effects on people of color. Earlier this week Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley blasted Gants and defended mandatory minimum sentencing. He attributed the recent decline in crime rates at least partially to such sentencing and noted that a departure from that approach would be a return to the failed policies of a bygone era. But Conley’s claims are misguided.