Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Yesterday I wrote about the high school student from New York who asked me to respond to questions regarding prison reform. He is completing a paper that will help his fellow students and other readers understand more about the greatest social injustice of our time: Mass Incarceration. I’m happy to help.
The second question he asked me to answer follows: “Are drug-related offenders fairly punished?”
Answering this question requires us to begin with a definition of fairness. Brian, the high school student who presented me with these questions, could have two implications: When judges impose sentences on drug offenders, do they adhere to a system of due process? Or, are the sentences Congress has authorized for drug offenders appropriate?
With regard to the first possible question, I would answer that drug offenders, like most offenders who proceed through America’s criminal justice system, receive due process. There is a system in place. First, they are charged with a crime. Then the prosecutors present evidence. The defendant can offer evidence that may exonerate him. Then a jury or judge will consider the evidence and make a determination of whether the individual is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt or not guilty. As Winston Churchill once said, the system is the worst system in the world, except for all others. In other words, it’s as close as we can come to fairness.
The second question would have a different answer, from my perspective. We sentence non-violent drug offenders far too severely. Some people are serving life sentences in federal prison for their role in distributing marijuana—a weed that is now legal in several states. We should not impose sentences of multiple decades for consenting adults who engaged in a drug transaction. If violence or other aggravating factors were involved, those would issues should be charged separately. As far as sentences for drug offenders are concerned, from my perspective, the sentences are far too long and do not reflect a commitment to justice.
Days since my release from prison: 435
Miles that I ran today: 12.2
Miles that I ran so far this week: 24.3
Miles that I’ve run during the month of October: 126.69
Miles that I ran so far in 2014: 1,990.71
Miles that I need to run in order to reach my annual goal of 2,400 miles: 409.29
Miles I’m ahead of schedule to reach my 2,400-mile goal by the end of 2014: 52.56
My weight for today: 168