Sensenbrenner To Chair House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security
The worst news yet about the Republicans gaining control of the House: Uber-crime warrior James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) has been named Chair of the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security.
What a joke considering the purpose of the Judiciary committee:
“The House Judiciary Committee is often referred to as the guardian of the Constitution. Our members have a solemn duty to protect the principles of liberty, equality and justice for all Americans.
Sensenbrenner is a menace. He's a one-man disaster for justice. Examples: His 2005 "five years for passing a joint" bill ", officially called the "Defending America's Most Vulnerable: Safe Access to Drug Treatment and Child Protection Act of 2005", H.R. 1528. It created a new group of mandatory minimum penalties for non-violent drug offenses, including a five year penalty for passing a joint to someone who's been in drug treatment.
It was also a "Snitch or Go to Jail bill", providing 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. [More...]
Other components in the failed bill:
- Effectively make the federal sentencing guidelines a system of mandatory minimum sentences through a "Booker-fix" provision which forbids judges from departing below the guideline sentence in all but a few cases.
- Make the sale of any quantity of any controlled substance (including anything greater than five grams of marijuana) by a person older than 21 to a person younger than 18 subject to a ten-year federal mandatory minimum sentence.
- Create a new three-year mandatory minimum for parents who witness or learn about drug trafficking activities, targeting or even near their children, if they do not report it to law enforcement authorities within 24 hours and do not provide full assistance investigating, apprehending, and prosecuting the offender.
- Create a new 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for any parent committing a drug trafficking crime in or near the presence of their minor child.
- Mandate life in prison for persons 21 years or older convicted a second time of distributing drugs to a person under 18 or convicted a first time after a felony drug conviction has become final.
- Increase to five years the federal mandatory minimum sentence for the sale of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school, college, public library, drug treatment facility (or any place where drug treatment, including classes, are held), or private or public daycare facilities - in short, almost anywhere in cities across the U.S.
- Eliminate the federal "safety valve," granting it only when the government certifies that the defendant pled guilty to the most serious readily provable offense (the one that carries the longest sentence), and has "done everything possible to assist substantially in the investigation and prosecution of another person," and would prohibit the federal "safety-valve" in cases where drugs were distributed or possessed near a person under 18, where the defendant delayed his or her efforts to provide substantial assistance to the government, or provided false, misleading or incomplete information.
Translation: Offenders with a prior conviction on almost any drug charge would automatically get 10 years. Adults who sold to minors could get life. If Dad watches Mom smoke marijuana in their living room, they both head to prison, and Junior goes to foster care.
Under Sensenbrenner's bill, there would be mandatory pre-trial detention instead of bail for drug offenders -- with exceptions, of course, for those who agree to snitch.
Sensenbrenner is also the driving force behind the Real ID Act and bills to strip judges of their discretion in sentencing and subpoena judges' records.
His ethics are also questionable, as demonstrated by the complaint filed against him in 2005 when he engaged with ex parte communications with a judge in an attempt to have a greater sentence imposed in a drug case. More on the fallout from the letter here.
Then there's his 2005 Border Protection bill, which included an expanded definition of an aggravated felony, mandatory detention for all immigrants detained at ports of entry or along international borders, the limiting of legal rights and due process for those charged with immigration violations, and the potential for more employer discrimination and abuse of workers. It also would have made undocumented immigration status a crime.
Did we mention this report on his conflicts of interest in the immigration debate?
It's laughable that some give him credit for the 2003 bill that provided for DNA testing of inmates with innocence claims. He tried to torpedo it. I was with a group of lawyers lobbying on the bill when Sensenbrenner's aide came to talk to us and made it clear that if Democrats didn't cave on a bill Sensenbrenner wanted -- the Feeney Amendment (more here and here) which would increase federal sentences -- neither the Innocence Protection bill, nor any bill the Democrats sought to advance, would ever make it to a vote. They controlled the calendar.
The Democrats capitulated and the final Innocence Protection Act that passed, under the new name of the Equal Justice for All Act, reduced the amount of money available for testing inmate innocence claims to a small fraction, directing the rest to go to the testing of old rape kits in unsolved rape cases to find more perpetrators. They even named that portion of the bill "the Debbie Smith Act", after a rape victim. Thanks to Sensenbrenner, out of the $1 billion in funding for the bill, $755 milion went to testing old rape kits while only $25 million (spread over five years) went for testing of inmate's innocence claims. $25 million, over 5 years, out of $1 billion and Sensenbrenner wants credit for being pro-justice? Simply laughable. (Compare with the Innocence Protection Act as introduced in 2000 and 2001.
Another (albeit minor by comparison) Sensenbrenner doozy: He wanted to criminalize making indecent comments on TV and throw the violators in jail.
And he was one of the few Congress critters to vote against relief for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Sensenbrenner is also arrogant. Remember when he cut off the mikes at a hearing on the Patriot Act because the Democrats wanted to discuss the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo?
It's going to be a wild ride for the next two years. With Sensenbrenner at the helm of this subcommittee, the world will watch us lock up our neighbors, our students, our teachers and our parents. America. Prison Nation. Who will be left? Snitches and Congressman Sensenbrenner.
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