Boston US Attorney Michael
Sullivan has ordered prosecutors in his office to increase recommended
sentences for drug offenders in every case where they can, the Boston Globe
reported Saturday. Under Sullivan's policy, which took effect in
March but only openly came to light recently, prosecutors must seek "sentencing
enhancements" that can add from two to 30 years to sentences for drug crimes.
Previously, federal prosecutors could decide on a case-by-case basis whether
to seek the harsher sentences.
Under Sullivan's policy,
a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for drug dealing is doubled if the
defendant has a previous state drug conviction. With two prior felony
drug convictions, the minimum sentence is life. The Boston US Attorney's
office now also automatically seeks enhancements for the use of a weapon
in a crime; those are worth an additional five years in prison.
"Indigent defendants are
getting hammered by this US attorney's office, and it's appalling," said
Charles W. Rankin, chairman of the group of court-appointed defense lawyers
who practice in federal court in Boston. "The sentences people are
getting are huge, and to what end? Just because the government wants
to be tough and macho," he told the Globe.
Sullivan, a former Republican
prosecutor for Plymouth County widely believed to have higher political
aspirations, said he is simply implementing the "tough on crime" policies
he has always espoused. "The public expects we do everything possible
to ensure the safety of the communities that we serve," Sullivan told the
Globe. "It's critically important in terms of the message we send
to the community, whether that's people thinking of committing crimes of
violence or using weapons in the commission of crimes." He didn't
address what message he is sending the community by imprisoning nonviolent
minor drug offenders for decades.
But even Sullivan's staff
is criticizing the policy, the Globe reported. Speaking only anonymously,
some federal prosecutors questioned the fairness of decades-long sentences
for minor drug offenders. "It's politics," one told the Globe.
"He acts like he's still running for office," said another.
And the juggernaut rolls
on. Last year, 235 people were sent to prison for drug offenses in
the federal district of Massachusetts. That's an increase of more
than 30% since 1999, more than three times the national rate.
-- END --
Issue #264, 11/22/02
DRCNet Needs Your Help! | Editorial: It's Not About Public Safety | Drug Czar, Prohibition Establishment Seek "Zero Tolerance" for "Drugged Driving" -- Sober Marijuana Users in the Crosshairs | DC Treatment Initiative Clears Legal, Bureaucratic Hurdles, More Funding and Implementation Battles Loom | Medical Marijuana in New York: As the Marijuana Reform Party Licks Its Wounds, MPP Funds New Legislative Effort | Newsbrief: This Week's Cop Corruption Story | Newsbrief: HEA Resolution on the Move on Campuses | Newsbrief: With Milwaukee Drug War Running on Overdrive, Drug Court Judge Begins to Wonder | Newsbrief: Oklahoma Prisons Gobble Up More Cash | Newsbrief: Ambitious US Attorney in Boston Orders Increased Drug Penalties | Newsbrief: Arkansas Drug Czar Resigns After DWI Bust | Newsbrief: Could It Possibly Be TRUE Department -- New African High? | Newsbrief: California Town Won't Report Medical Marijuana Cases to DEA 264/antimarijuanaresearch Newsbrief: NORML Gives Heads Up on Anti-Marijuana Research Results to Be Published Next Week | Green Aid Establishes Legal Defense Fund for Ed Rosenthal | Media Scan: Doonesbury, Forbes in Slate, OC Register, Ed Forchion in DrugWar.com, Youth Today, Nando Times, CCLE Salvia, Heroin Times, Pot TV on John Walters, ONDCP | Action Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision, Tulia, Salvia Divinorum | The Reformer's Calendar
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