More bad news on sentencing

The “Amber Alert” bill has now passed both houses of Congress and awaits the President’s signature, carrying with it a slightly modified version of the Feeney Amendment to further bias federal sentencing toward severity. I’m not alone in thinking the provision an outrage:

Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, in a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said that provision “would seriously impair the ability of courts to impose just and responsible sentences.” (*)

I couldn’t ask for a better illustration of the “how a dumb bill becomes a law” thesis. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and with only 25 noes in the House (including only Ron Paul among the Republicans).

Update It turns out that the RAVE Act also went though, riding on the same bill. I’m not sure some sort of restriction on raves wouldn’t be a good idea (more on that idea here), but there’s no reason to think that the bill as passed incorporates anything resembling a sensible control approach.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com