Re: Notice of Intent to Propose Concurrence at Convention 2012
On the convention floor at Convention 2012 in Washington, D.C., LWVUS will be recommending adoption by concurrence on the floor of convention with the following LWV of the District of Columbia positions on sentencing:
The LWVUS believes alternatives to imprisonment should be explored and utilized, taking into consideration the circumstances and nature of the crime.
The LWVUS opposes mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses.
The following information is being sent in compliance with LWVUS Bylaws, Article XII, Sec. 2. Program (c):
Arguments that support alternatives to imprisonment:
Sentencing alternatives, including drug and mental health courts, probation, restorative justice, halfway houses, and fines, give judges more options to tailor cost-effective sentences that fit each unique offender and crime, protect the public, and provide rehabilitation.
Alternatives are, less costly, save taxpayers money, and help prevent jail and prison overcrowding.
Alternatives keep families together and, through rehabilitation and treatment, allow offenders to earn a living, pay taxes, and contribute to their communities.
Arguments that oppose alternatives to imprisonment:
Alternatives to incarceration treat offenders too easily by not punishing them sufficiently.
Offenders see community sentences as a lenient option and are not deterred from offending again.
Society is protected while offenders are in prison.
Arguments that oppose mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses:
Harsh mandatory minimums for drug offenses have led to huge increases in prison populations, many of whom are low-level and nonviolent offenders.
To date there is no evidence that tougher sentences deter drug crimes, and mandatory penalties are particularly ineffective in preventing drug crimes.
Mandatory penalty laws shift power from judges to prosecutors, and remove the judge’s discretion to consider mitigating circumstances. Restoring judicial discretion would ensure that defendants receive punishments proportional to the offenses committed, taking into account individual circumstances without ignoring culpability and the safety of the public.
Arguments that support mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses:
The certainty of mandatory minimums sends a message to offenders that specified behaviors would be met with harsh and certain punishment, and provides consistent and uniform sentences for all defendants.
Mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses keeps dealers off the streets and discourages illegal drug use.
The law also aids prosecutors and police, who use the threat of lengthy prison terms to persuade low-level dealers to testify against dealers higher up in the chain of command.
Rationale for using Convention concurrence to adopt these positions:
Concurrence at Convention is a valid method of developing new League positions and over the years it has been used to adopt new positions ranging from the Violence Prevention position in 1994 to Marriage Equality in 2010. It is particularly useful for issues that are easily understood and where traditional local-League based studies could be expected to reach the same conclusion as the proposed concurrence. The League’s Bylaws provide the authority for the adoption of positions by concurrence.