John Oliver Takes on Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Great segment by John Oliver on mandatory minimum sentences.

Ridiculously long sentences are not a great deterrent to crime. Prison sentences are a lot like p*nises: if they're used correctly, even a short one can do the trick."

(Asterisk used to avoid inviting spam.) As he points out:

Everyone has agreed that mandatory minimum rules were a mistake, and we cannot have a system where people are continuing to pay for that mistake."

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    There are too many victims -- many thousands -- (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Peter G on Tue Jul 28, 2015 at 09:40:48 PM EST
    of this bipartisan legislative fiasco for case-by-case clemency to do the trick. Some kind of mass reduction of sentences is needed. Every federal drug sentence is too long, by far. (Most state sentences as well, as the Oklahoma case highlighted by Oliver shows. [That clip, by the way, is from the very fine 2012 documentary, "The House I Live In."]) Four dozen once every few months will never achieve justice. For action ideas, go to (and join) Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

    My only (none / 0) (#1)
    by lentinel on Tue Jul 28, 2015 at 06:54:04 PM EST
    problem with John Oliver's show is the constant flipping back and forth between something very serious, and a light-hearted and sometimes slightly obscene joke.

    He brings the case of Weldon Angelos to the front.
    55 years for selling a small amount of pot - albeit while he happened to have a gun on him (from what I got from the story). Ergo the mandatory minimum of 55 years.

    What I would have liked is for Oliver to organize some kind of campaign to free Angelos.

    He did encourage some activism and letter writing when he took on FISA.

    The case of Angelos deserves similar activism. Even more so, in my opinion.

    Otherwise, it comes off in a manner that is saddening because he highlights an injustice, surrounds it with the program's concept of humor, and then leaves Angelos behind - to be forgotten and left to his seemingly hopeless fate.

    A petition to urge President Obama to commute Angelo's sentence is here.

    But There are Probably... (none / 0) (#3)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Jul 30, 2015 at 10:42:55 AM EST
    ...a million of them.  HERE, is Salon's 10 worse marijuana sentences:
    3. Jonathan Magbie

    Jonathan Magbie's story is a stunning example of the cruelty that can accompany an arrest for medical marijuana. Paralyzed from the neck down after being hit by a drunk driver at the age of four, Magpie was charged with marijuana possession in 2004 after cops found a joint and a loaded gun in a vehicle in which he was the passenger. Though he had never been convicted of a criminal offense and required medical assistance 20 hours a day, he was given a 10-day sentence in a DC jail. With no ventilator to sustain his breathing, he died in jail four days later.

    Magbie's marijuana punishment was a death sentence. Without their medication behind bars, pot patients who make it out alive have endured days, weeks or years without their medication. Even after release, conditions of parole, including urine tests, may prevent patients from accessing their medicine.

    8. The Young Family

    Clyde and Patricia Young were living with their eight children in Alabama near the border of Mississippi, surrounded by the property of wealthy businessman J.P. Altmire, when Altmire decided he wanted their land. When the Youngs refused to sell, he wrote 36 letters to lawyers, prosecutors and the local sheriff calling the family "troublemakers." In August 1988, the Young's eldest son was arrested for cultivating marijuana on Altmire property. Authorities tore up the Young's home with pickshovels, and police seized all the money they had, including the children's piggy banks and a 90-year-old uncle's social security check. They did not find any drugs.

    A year later, police raided the home again, this time arresting the entire family. The Youngs learned at indictment that drug residue, a scale and a notebook of names and amounts of money were uncovered in a 1986 raid on Clyde Young's mother's hunt club. At trial, the judge and Altmire's former lawyer and friend, Charles Butler, did not allow the defense to admit as evidence the letters Altmire sent to local authorities. The prosecution's witnesses included, as with many cases, criminals who may have been implicating others to reduce their own sentences. Clyde and Patricia, as well as four of their children, were found guilty of possession and conspiracy to distribute marijuana in an ongoing criminal enterprise. Clyde got 26 years; Patricia got 24; and their four children received sentences ranging from three to 15 years. Patricia and the four children have since been released, but Clyde is still serving his time.