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How Does This Federal Judge Sleep at Night?

By       Message WILLIAM FISHER     Permalink
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On April 30, 2002, police officers went to Sabrina's home to arrest the man

--   he had been living with her since his release from jail three days earlier. Moments before police took him into custody; the man placed 0.79 grams of methamphetamine into Sabrina's waistband as he hugged her. The police confiscated it, along with 49.95 grams of methamphetamine, 21.1 grams of marijuana, a handgun and her boyfriend's drug ledger. Sabrina, a single mother, kept the gun for protection.   Police arrested Sabrina along with her boyfriend.  


Judge Bennett writes that Sabrina pled guilty and was held accountable for between 500 grams and 1.5 kilograms of methamphetamine.   Though the sentencing guidelines proscribed a term of 70 to 87 months in prison, the charges against Sabrina carry a ten-year mandatory minimum. Sabrina's probation officer took into account the detrimental impact her incarceration would have on her family and asked the Court for mercy.

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Instead, "The government threatened Sabrina with an additional five-year mandatory minimum for the handgun, but agreed to a plea bargain of 12 years in federal prison", Judge Bennett wrote.


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Thus, a minor participant in the offense, with no criminal record, received just three years less than her boyfriend, a drug dealer who had experienced many run-ins with the law, Judge Bennett says.


He comments that, "During her incarceration, Sabrina has dedicated herself to turning her life round. She works hard at her prison job and maintains a positive attitude. Sabrina's mother currently cares for Sabrina's young daughter and is very supportive of Sabrina."


This is a description of what's actually happening in the country that has more people in jail than any other country in the world. -- about 2.26 million at last count, year-end 2010.   In addition, there were 70,792 juveniles in juvenile detention in 2010.


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In 2008 approximately one in every 31 adults (7.3 million) in the United States was behind bars, or being monitored (probation and parole). In 2008 the breakdown for adults under correctional control was as follows: one out of 18 men, one in 89 women, one in 11 African-Americans (9.2 percent), one in 27 Latinos (3.7 percent), and one in 45 Caucasians (2.2 percent). Crime rates have declined by about 25 percent from 1988-2008. 70% of prisoners in the United States are non-whites. In recent decades the U.S. has experienced a surge in its prison population, quadrupling since 1980, partially as a result of mandatory sentencing that came about during the " war on drugs ." Violent crime and property crime have declined since the early 1990s.


In addition, there were 86,927 held in juvenile facilities as of the 2007 Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement (CJRP), conducted by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention . As of 2009, the three states with the lowest ratios of imprisoned people per 100,000 population are Maine (150 per 100,000), Minnesota (189 per 100,000), and New Hampshire (206 per 100,000). The three states with the highest ratio are Louisiana (881 per 100,000), Mississippi (702 per 100,000) and Oklahoma (657 per 100,000).

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William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the Middle East and elsewhere for the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development. He served in the international affairs area in the Kennedy Administration and now (more...)

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