By Bill Maher
When the federal government does something they hope won’t get much notice, because no self-respecting politician would want to be associated with it, they do it on a Friday afternoon. The thinking is that the weekly media machine has wound down and there will be a whole weekend of other, fresher events to report on when it cranks back up again on Monday. It’s called a news dump. And Washington’s U.S. Sentencing Commission recently took one.
In a late-afternoon unanimous vote, the seven-person commission, which acts independently of the Obama administration, voted to turn the tide on the old, three-strikes, mandatory-minimum bullshit and decided that 46,000-plus federal, non-violent, drug trafficking prisoners should have their sentences reconsidered and/or reduced.
Now some of this harsh, mandatory sentencing crap has already been reined in. But this ruling is a retroactive one that says some of the people who had previously gotten the book disproportionately thrown at them could take part in the new sanity. That’s why it was done in a news dump. It was the federal government saying, “Okay, you’re right. Maybe you shouldn’t go to prison for the rest of your life for selling weed to your downstairs neighbor.”
Now, Congress could vote to overturn this decision, but they won’t. They’ll all turn their heads and whistle because it’s recently become clear to both Republicans and Democrats that a) this zero-tolerance tack doesn’t work, and b) it is draining our federal and state coffers.
The important thing is that this commission that no one has ever heard of was able to quietly revoke these stinking policies without the politicians who crafted them looking like they’ve gone soft on crime or drugs. God forbid they get caught doing the right thing.