Sensenbrenner's Snitch-or-Go-to-Jail Bill

I don't think I've ever seen a bill as destructive as Rep. Sensenbrenner's new drug bill, H.R. 1528, the "The Safe Access to Drug Treatment & Child Protection Act of 2005." You think America's prison population is too high at 2 million? Get ready for 15 million.

The bill may be up for another hearing this week. It's time to act. As TChris wrote a few weeks ago, it's time to Just Say No to Sensenbrenner. An excellent bill summary is here.

You may remember this as the bill that provides for a five year mandatory minimum sentence for passing a joint to someone who's been through a drug treatment program. That's nothing. Read about what else this doozy of a bill will do. Like the "snitch or go to jail" provisions. If you are a college professor or student, you should be very afraid.

The bill provides for a two year jail sentence if you observe or come across information about drug distribution near colleges and do not report it to authorities within 24 hours and provide full assistance investigating, apprehending, and prosecuting those involved.

Drug War Rant says,

Hey, why don't we take this snitch law into other areas. Two year in prison for anyone seeing someone drive above the speed limit with children in the car, who doesn't write down the license plate number and report it within 24 hours. Or better yet, two years in prison for a legislator who sees another legislator draft unconstitutional bills and doesn't report it to the ethics committee.]

How about three strikes for drug offenders - life no parole for a third drug or violent felony. Remember that in most states, simple possession of even a gram of cocaine, meth, lsd or heroin is a felony. Federally, growing even one marijuana plant is a felony. Relatively small amounts of mariuana offenses are still a felony in many states.

More: Your 21 year old gives a joint his 17 year old sister. He gets a 10 year mandatory minimum sentence - for a first violation. With a prior felony drug conviction, it's life in prison, no parole.

Federally, the crime is distribution, which means "to deliver" - regardless of whether money is exchanged. So when the bill says "drug trafficking offense," there doesn't have to be a sale, just a distribution.

The way I read the bill, under the section called "Drug trafficking in the presence of children," this is a possible scenario: You run out of your Ambien or your pain pills. You ask a friend to bring one over. If you live with kids, even if they aren't home, it's a ten year mandatory minimum. Now reverse it. Your friend is out of pills, you bring her one. She has kids at home. She gets a mandatory ten year sentence, you get away with five. Or as TChris wrote in the post linked above,

[I]f Dad watches Mom smoke marijuana in their living room, they both head to prison, and Junior goes to foster care.

Other provisions will increase protected school zones to 1,000 feet instead of the current 100 feet. This applies not just to schools but to pools, day care centers, libraries, video arcades and drug treatment centers. Why don't they just drop the charade and say in any location?

The bill also does away with almost every departure under the Sentencing Guidelines - except cooperation. In many circumstances, instead of a presumption against bail for drug offenders, there will be mandatory detention -- with exceptions, of course, for those who agree to snitch.

Here's the links you need for now:

America. Prison Nation. Watch us lock up our neighbors, our students, our teachers and our parents. Who will be left? Snitches, Congressman Sensenbrenner and the extremist Judges appointed by Bush.

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    Re: Sensenbrenner's Sntich-or-Go-to-Jail Bill (none / 0) (#1)
    by roger on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:05 PM EST
    Is this bill actually getting support outside the ranks of mentally ill, repub congressmen? How dangerous a nut case is Sensenbrenner? He can propose a bill mandating the death penalty for jaywalking, but if he doesnt have the votes, he could just be making an *ss of himself. If this bill has a chance of passing, of course it must be stopped. But how many votes are there for this? If a majority thinks that this is a good idea, we have more fundamental problems than just this bill.

    Re: Sensenbrenner's Sntich-or-Go-to-Jail Bill (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:05 PM EST
    During alcohol prohibition, there was a law passed that gave life imprisonment to anybody caught with a pint of booze. Warren Harding would have been in the hoosegow. Wasn't there a report out there a few years ago stating that 84 members of Congress had been convicted of some crime in one form or another, and 16 were convicted of drug charges? Mr. Senselessbrenner needs to take that accusing finger and thump it on his own chest for awhile. Congress was flying over the cuckoo's nest last Wednesday. It's over. enough

    Re: Sensenbrenner's Sntich-or-Go-to-Jail Bill (none / 0) (#3)
    by jackl2400 on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:05 PM EST
    Roger: In answer to your question, I believe this bill is a real threat and stands a good chance of passing the House this week. Senate prospects unknown. Why do I say this? The bill seems to be the other barrel of the shotgun fired by the House Judiciary Committee (whose Chairman, Rep. Sensenbrenner is the main sponsor and "author" of the bill) and is keen to constrain the sentencing discretion of federal judges by the mandatory minimums and sentencing guidelines contained in this and a "companion" bill, H.R. 1279. The companion bill H.R. 1279 passed the House last week by a comfortable margin (279-144, although not as wide as most popular Republican bills). That bill was the "youth gang" act, which, among other things, "federalizes" gang crime and allows a gang to be as few as three kids "conspiring" together to commit a crime (separately punishible, of course). So, yeah, I'd say this bill's prospects are very good for passing and we need to protest now, lest this bill be lost in the rest of the ongoing noise about the "Nuclear Option", Iraq atrocities, etc. Senselessbrenner is a dangerous nut case. Unfortunately, he's not a harmless Democrat or a back-bencher. He's the freekin' CHAIRMAN of the House Judiciary Committee and thus a very powerful and influential man with direct responsibility for federal criminal justice laws (and judicial nominations). Be afraid. Be very afraid. J

    Re: Sensenbrenner's Sntich-or-Go-to-Jail Bill (none / 0) (#4)
    by kdog on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:05 PM EST
    Senselessbrenner is an enemy of freedom and justice who must be stopped. I just hope there are some sane legislators left to put the kebosh on this tyrannical bill. But when it comes to the war on drugs, sanity is hard to come by.

    Re: Sensenbrenner's Sntich-or-Go-to-Jail Bill (none / 0) (#5)
    by Lora on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:05 PM EST
    "And if Mommie is a Commie then you gotta turn her in..." Hey, how 'bout a mandatory minimum sentence for those who didn't snitch on the criminals who lied, exploited, and bamboozled their way into a deadly, illegal, devastating war on totally false pretexts, ruining countless lives and any prospects for a bright peaceful future? That would fill up our prisons. Who'd be left?

    Re: Sensenbrenner's Sntich-or-Go-to-Jail Bill (none / 0) (#6)
    by Kevin Hayden on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:05 PM EST
    As work requirements come with incarceration, this is nothing more than the new American slave plantation system.

    Re: Sensenbrenner's Sntich-or-Go-to-Jail Bill (none / 0) (#7)
    by DawesFred60 on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:05 PM EST
    Forget 15 million we "our" and i mean our all in a prison and just don't know it yet, "hey it is the land of freedom", right? This bill will not only put you in prison for "No Crime", but it will also help in the rewriting of the bill of rights, and do away with any ideals of what justice is, and that is what bush and the world oligarchies want,..."see people the next move" what will happen when you can't make a living?...this bill is a setup job on you, don't be fooled, but if you are fooled with the lines of trojan horse propaganda, well have fun in the coming third world. by 2020 we will see 15 million in prison; oh yes, the usa will be gone by that time replaced with a really evil idea.

    Re: Sensenbrenner's Sntich-or-Go-to-Jail Bill (none / 0) (#8)
    by SeeEmDee on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:07 PM EST
    Ever wonder why these increasingly bad and restrictive laws are coming to the forefront, and being pushed so energetically? When the social pendulum begins to swing back - after having been held back with all their might by the NeoCons and their allies - there will be reckoning that makes Watergate and the Church Committee look like they happened in grade school. That is, if we haven't descended into full-on fascism before then.

    Re: Sensenbrenner's Sntich-or-Go-to-Jail Bill (none / 0) (#9)
    by kdog on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:07 PM EST
    On the brightside...laws such as this are so heinous, they could bring the whole mother down. That would be fun to watch.

    Re: Sensenbrenner's Sntich-or-Go-to-Jail Bill (none / 0) (#10)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:07 PM EST
    This bill is so obviously and openly contradictory to Republicans meaningless day-to-day rhetoric about "freedom" and "liberty", of which the president is so incredibly fond of, that I can't possibly imagine they would dream of it passing and still hope to keep their core constituency pleased… But then I remember who their core constituency is (Evangelical Christians), and that's what makes me afraid that it might actually pass. This bill, if it does pass, is a step in a direction far from freedom.

    Re: Sensenbrenner's Sntich-or-Go-to-Jail Bill (none / 0) (#11)
    by teacherken on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:07 PM EST
    question -- would not the sentences in at least some cases be considered a violation of the 8th Amendment? I have a vague memory that some of the draconian attempts in state courts at truly excessive setences were a few decades ago overturned for just this reason. And can we offer amendments that would apply equally draconian sentences for corporations that rip off people, for stock brokers who rip off customers, for corporate defense lawyers who bring SLAPP suits to intimidate then public? Why not see how far the Repubs like Sensenbreenr are willing to go?

    Re: Sensenbrenner's Sntich-or-Go-to-Jail Bill (none / 0) (#12)
    by Pete Guither on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:07 PM EST
    teacherken: Regarding the draconian sentences... The problem is that they keep passing additional infractions that add on, so the court may not view that there is any one sentence that's draconian, but by the time they add up all the extras, you're in there for life for a very minor activity. MightyMerc: The problem is that even though this is obviously contradictory to so many principles, it's got "children" and "mandatory minimums" -- they love that stuff. What's needed is an honest cost estimate for this bill. That might make some people pay attention.

    Re: Sensenbrenner's Sntich-or-Go-to-Jail Bill (none / 0) (#13)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:07 PM EST
    This bill seems so Orwellian to me. Reading about it here conjures up images of children reporting their parents to the Thought Police for unsubstantiated "Thought Crimes" and then being hailed as heroes for turning in potentially dangerous criminals. Drug use (primarily marijuana) is associated with hippies who generally vote left. This could be a veiled attempt to put leftist voters in jail and throw felonies on their records so they can no longer vote. Sounds like disenfranchising legitimate voters, a la Florida 2000, only this time, it's legal. I don't mean to generalize; I'm sure there are plenty of NeoCon drug users (Limbaugh) but I think many would agree with me.

    Re: Sensenbrenner's Sntich-or-Go-to-Jail Bill (none / 0) (#15)
    by Lora on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:08 PM EST
    I have a feeling that this barbarically draconian law would seldom if ever be used...it would be held for use to nail those the administration wanted taken out...I agree with bruins'above reference to left-voting hippies, and add protestors, liberal thinkers, whoever the admin is considering a threat. Now they'll have legal recourse to silence them. Let's hope the ACLU and other groups challenge each and every use of it should this blatantly repressive law somehow get passed.

    Re: Sensenbrenner's Sntich-or-Go-to-Jail Bill (none / 0) (#16)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:08 PM EST
    One Nation Behind Bars

    Re: Sensenbrenner's Sntich-or-Go-to-Jail Bill (none / 0) (#17)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:42 PM EST
    "First they came for the communist but I wasn't a communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the socialist and the trade unionist I was neather so I didn't speak out Then they came for the jews but I was not a jew so I didn't speak out. AND WHEN THEY CAME FOR ME THERE WAS NO ONE LEFT TO SPEAK FOR ME. Martin Niemoeller (1892-1984)" In short we snich on this one person because they use drugs after all I don't use drugs and I don't agree with the person using and it against the law, then it will be some one who we think drinks to much, then some one who smokes to much, then some one who is a gainst the use of RFID & the Chip Implant and then, and then and then*******You get the point? This Bill Smacks of History repeating it self and the return of a Holocaust that will make Hitler look like a saint. And is playing right in the hands of the antichrist.