Target: Mitch McConnell, Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate
Goal: Allow judges to impose lesser sentences for nonviolent offenders to reduce the incarceration rate.
The incarceration rate in the United States of America is obscene, but a bill is currently before Congress that could help reduce it. The Justice Safety Valve Act would allow judges to impose sentences below the minimum in appropriate cases. Many Americans are sent to prison for nonviolent offenses; this is largely a result of the war on drugs. People are being thrown in jail for offenses that generally should not incur jail time. There are a few horror stories currently floating around the internet that describe the plights of people who have been sentenced to decades in prison for minor offenses such as the use of marijuana.
If made into a law, this bill would give judges greater discretion in sentencing nonviolent criminals, in effect working to reduce the number of nonviolent offenders behind bars. Prison should be a place where dangerous or exploitative people are kept secure for the safety of society. It should not be a place to lock away every wrongdoer for the express purpose of punishing them for offenses that cause little or no harm.
Please sign this petition to urge Congress to pass this bill so that we can give judges the power to impose sentences that are below the mandatory minimum. In giving judges this sort of discretion, we may be able to remedy prison overpopulation and relieve taxpayers of a considerable burden.
Dear Mr. McConnell,
I would like to urge you to do everything in your power to pass the Justice Safety Valve Act, which would allow judges to impose sentences below the minimum in certain situations. As I’m sure you’re aware, incarceration rates in the United States have reached epidemic levels, and this is partly the result of a judicial system that imprisons people for offenses that cause little harm. We currently imprison nonviolent individuals who could be making perfectly good contributions to society. The result is an explosion in the prison population, which places an unnecessary burden on taxpayers. This is not acceptable.
We should strive to establish a penal system that imposes a sentence equal to the crime. The problem is that many crimes, such as petty drug offenses, are being dealt with through unnecessarily long prison sentences. I believe that it would be a much more effective strategy to funnel taxpayer dollars into providing medical and psychological treatment to drug abusers. A similar strategy could be used for other non-violent offenses.
Please consider supporting this bill. I believe that it could help to fix overcrowding in prisons.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Brian Turner via Flickr