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September 2005
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Reader’s Digest takes on mandatory minimums

The historically conservative Reader’s Digest comes through with Petty Crime, Outrageous Punishment by Carl M. Cannon.
The article goes after the three-strikes law, but includes a lot more mandatory minimum madness, including this amazing story:

A Florida welfare mom, Clyburn accompanied her boyfriend to a pawnshop to sell his .22-caliber pistol. She provided her ID because her boyfriend didn’t bring his own, and the couple got $30 for the gun. But Clyburn had a previous criminal record for minor drug charges, and when federal authorities ran a routine check of the pawnshop’s records, they produced a “hit” — a felon in possession of a firearm. That’s automatically 15 years in federal prison, which is exactly what Clyburn got. “I never even held the gun,” she noted in an interview from prison.

No one is more appalled than H. Jay Stevens, the former federal public defender from the middle district of Florida. “Everybody I’ve described this case to says, “This can’t have happened.” [But] it’s happening five days a week all over this country.”

This one made me smile a little:

Several years ago, a prominent Congressman, Rep. Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois, was sent to prison on mail-fraud charges. It was only then that he learned what he’d been voting for all those years when anticrime legislation came up and he cast the safe “aye” vote. Rostenkowski told of being stunned at how many young, low-level drug offenders were doing 15- and 20- year stretches in federal prison.

“The waste of these lives is a loss to the entire community,” Rostenkowski said. “I was swept along by the rhetoric about getting tough on crime. Frankly, I lacked both expertise and perspective on these issues.”

So true. All our elected leaders lack the expertise and perspective… Perhaps we could help them out by giving them all some jail time.

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