Today we see far too much injustice in our court system.
Many violent criminals do not receive justice and victims restitution.
And many non-violent criminals’ lives are ruined forever… turned into hardened, dangerous criminals because of unjust prison sentences.
I believe in strong law enforcement. That’s why I won my local police associations endorsement a few years ago.
But the conservative Christian Prison Fellowship (Chuck Colson) group poins out too many get unjust punishment. Take Sharanda Jones.
18 years ago, Sharanda Jones was sentenced for life imprisonment with no parole. She is still languishing behind bars now.
Her crime was transferring shipments of crack from one city to another, based on the testimony of two witnesses. She was never found with crack in her possession.
Many criminals convicted of intentional homicide don’t get life imprisonment without parole. Even repeat violent offenders don’t. It is very difficult to give someone this sentence.
While acting as a drug mule is wrong, Sharanda’s sentencing is not proportionate to her crime.
Sharanda was charged with seven counts but was acquitted for six of those. But, because she wanted to testify in her own defense instead of pleading guilty and accepting a lengthy sentence, prosecutors were able to increase her sentence for a multitude of irrelevant and unproved charges.
For example, her sentence was increased for carrying a gun “in furtherance of a drug conspiracy” merely because she had a legal license to carry a firearm in Texas. There was no evidence that she had used her gun or even displayed it at the time.
This was Sharanda’s first arrest and it was for a nonviolent crime.
Sharanda’s case isn’t just one isolated incident. This kind of unjust sentencing is all too common – and the costs of keeping all these people in prison is sky high.
The federal budget for prisons has grown $130 million a year since 1980. That means the budget has grown almost 700% since then – and that’s after adjusting for inflation.
The problem of overcriminalization is overcrowding our prisons, costing taxpayers money, causing violent and dangerous criminals to be released into society, and unjustly taking away the freedom of those who don’t deserve such long sentences.
Of course Sharanda should have been punished for her crime.
But punishments must be proportionate to the crime. For her to be stripped away from her friends and family, excluded from participating in society, locked away in a prison for the rest of her life for transporting drugs is unjust.
She is being punished much more severely than countless rapists, and murders who are given a chance for “rehabilitation.” Where is the mercy for Sharanda?
Overcriminalization turns our justice system into an injustice system when the prisons too overcrowded with one-time, non-violent drug offenders to hold rapists, murders, and repeat violent offenders.
While reform has occurred and such sentencing is less likely to happen today, we need reform that will allow judicial reconsideration of past sentences like Sharanda’s.
That’s why a coalition of conservatives, libertarians and Christians (like Rand Paul, Rick Perry, and more) have joined with the black and Hispanic communities seeking prison reform.
As the 2016 election approaches, we will let you know where the candidates stand.
What do you think? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.