We noted in a recent blog post that unanimity is far from assured in any litmus test or polling focused upon the logic and efficacy of so-called “mandatory minimum” federal sentencing rules and outcomes.
There are proponents of that sentencing tool, to be sure, but it is emerging as starkly clear that a growing and broad-based public consensus has coalesced that strongly disfavors the application of mandatory minimum dispositions in many criminal cases.
Our May 22 entry underscored the “broadly bipartisan rejection” that is progressively growing regarding mandatory sentencing.
And it is certainly worth noting that some federal judges who have long felt unduly limited in their discretion and sentencing powers owing to mandatory imperatives are speaking up to note their concerns and frustrations.
Federal judge Mark Bennett is one of them. A recent national media report describes him as “exasperated, exhausted almost” by sentences he is compelled to hand down from the bench that he regards as unjust and illogical.
Bennett and other federal judges who feel like him regard mandatory minimum sentencing rules as anathema, that is, option delimiters that straitjacket them as they seek to devise common-sense and ethical outcomes.
What particularly galls Bennett is what he believes is a sheer misapplication of the tool. Although proponents of mandatory sentencing have always stressed its linkage with hard-core drug traffickers and dealers, high numbers of low-level and nonviolent offenders — Bennett says mostly addicts — are often the individuals victimized by harsh sentencing terms.
And that is simply egregious, contends Bennett, who makes no effort to mask his criticisms.
“I’m compelled to talk about it,” he says, “because I think it’s one of the gravest injustices in the history of America.”