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Sentencing: Justice Kennedy Lashes Out at Harsh Prison Terms

Submitted by Phillip Smith on
Consequences of Prohibition
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy told a gathering of judges in Southern California Sunday US sentencing practices were harsh and troubling. US sentences are eight times longer than those in Europe, Kennedy said, adding that the public needed to be aware of the length of sentences in the US.

Justice Kennedy
"If an 18-year-old is growing marijuana for a friend, that's distribution," said Kennedy in remarks reported by the Orange County Register. "If he has his father's .22 rifle, that's a firearm. That will get 15 years. Did you know what 15 years was when you were 18? I didn't when I was 18."

Kennedy, a Sacramento native who was recently designated Supreme Court justice for the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, also criticized state sentencing practices. He noted pointedly that California alone has more than 200,000 people behind bars.

Kennedy also complained that the people at whom the harsh sentences are aimed are largely unaware of them until they fall into the hands of the criminal justice system. "If sentences are to be a deterrent, what is the good of them if nobody knows how long they are?" he said.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

PLEASE ask every woman, man and teenager to contact their House & Senate Representative (every day if possible) and create a tidal wave of support for getting this Bill signed into Law. This bill has died every year since 2005 in the Senate & White House. - H.R. 1529 - The Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act of 2009 [HR 1529] would permit expungement of records of certain nonviolent criminal offenses. Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act of 2009 amends the federal criminal code to allow an individual to file a petition for expungement of a record of conviction for a nonviolent criminal offense if such individual has satisfied all the requirements and contributes to the safety and health of his/her family and/or community. Supporting H.R. 1529 The Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act of 2009 will help first-time offenders with reducing recidivism through work and satisfying employment opportunities for Ex-Offenders. In many cases, this lack of job stability perpetuates a cycle of poverty and other forms of disenfranchisement, becoming a major contributor to recidivism which in turn increases demands on the resources of the prison system and drives up costs. Without the possibility of expungement, first time offenders are doomed to a life of menial employment, government dependency or recidivism. Expungement as a legal remedy offers hope to those without access to decent employment.

Wed, 04/08/2009 - 3:17pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I was just told that a federal judge has read and interpreted this bill to mean that convicted felons without a history of violence can apply and get of prison earlier than their sentence. There should be a form for the inmate to fill out himself/herself. I am also told that the bop isn't going to like this ..thus the inmate will have to do all the paper work. I am trying to find out about this...who is the judge...where is he...where do we find these

Tue, 08/04/2009 - 9:10pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified) is a website to help a man who is doing life for pot smuggling. He's been there 20 years, he will die there unless we all come together. Thank you The Pardon Billy Foundation

Mon, 05/25/2009 - 11:29am Permalink
Rambo (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

If you are reading this - please write your senators and ask them to support Bill 714 - It could be your family oneday who needs this help.. is one of 1000's of lost souls in the prison machine - So please help us -

Sun, 04/04/2010 - 9:21pm Permalink

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