Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Even the toughest sentencing judges in Florida's vast array of federal and state courts seemed to mellow over the past few years as they accepted the fact that harsh sentencing especially for nonviolent offenses such as drugs, fraud or grand theft was abhorrent. As defense lawyers focused media attention to the devastated families and loved ones of defendants ruined by the criminal justice system it slowly became clear to society at large and even to law enforcement, prosecutors and judges that in daily use the harsh sentencing based on absurd sentencing guidelines and unfair minimum mandatory sentencing that often subverted justice and that they had gone too far in criminalizing nonviolent behavior with significant jail time. 

Judges could no longer effectively convince us that when they gave inhumane sentences that it was only because they lacked discretion under the sentencing guidelines. The most politically sensitive judges were the first to see that times had changed and were happy to receive more praise for more reasonable sentences. Soon others followed till a consensus developed for nuanced sentencing based on fairness, reasonableness and rehabilitation and giving a second chance thru the pretrial intervention program rather than retribution.

Those days of aspirations toward a Florida system of fair sentencing are about to end. The political climate for greater law and order will quickly turn the most spineless judges into mere adding machines pleasantly spitting math scores and spilling blood at sentencing. Eventually the zeal of long sentencing will sweep away any of the remaining reluctant judges until they're all giving minimum mandatory sentences that corrupt the very prosecutors and judges who pursue them with no apparent shame just as they were only a few years ago. Close your eyes as they waste another generation of lives thrown away for no purpose other than the fact that judges enjoy being judges. 

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