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Should prisoners be arbitrarily released from prison without due process?

Updated on November 6, 2015

Recently a number of prisoners have been released from federal prisons in an effort to reduce the prison population and the costs involved in housing them. The excuse is that there are those who are serving sentences that do not match the crime for which they have been incarcerated. While this may be true in some cases it must be remembered that our criminal justice system made the decision to put the criminals in prison for their length of sentence.

I have no doubt there are those in prison who are serving time that do not match the crime for which they have been sentenced but the time should be served. Our criminal justice system as I have seen it has in many instances taken into consideration the circumstances associated with various crimes along with the criminal history of those accused. We are not always happy with decisions made by our justice system but we must accept them unless they are overturned. Changing the justice system in order to save money and reduce the prison population is not a valid reason for releasing prisoners. The level or quantities of prisoners we currently have are being compared to other countries. It is not a bad thing that we have more prisoners than other countries it only means that situations in other countries are not the same around the world. When individuals break the law they need to be sentenced and serve their time unless they are properly paroled through a parole board not through presidential action.

The release of individuals involves what has been called non-violent crimes but the definition of non-violent as support for the release raises many questions. It is true that in some cases minimum sentences are involved but you do not ignore the process and sidestep decisions by courts. Some of the individuals released according to reports were low level non-violent drug dealers. One point that is being ignored in all this is the fact that Attorney General Eric Holder dropped mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders. Whether this action/decision was legal is an open question so if this action has been taken why should these individuals have their sentences reduced even further.

Each case is different and must be judged not only for the crime but the circumstances surrounding it. I agree that some changes to the sentencing aspect of our justice system may be needed but changes need to go through Congress not the President or the Department of Justice. Changing our justice system in relation to the sentencing aspect must or should receive a hard look in deciding what sentence requirements currently in place to not make sense and make the changes needed. If the sentence requirements currently in place for some crimes are felt to be appropriate then they should be left alone.

I do agree there should be some flexibility for judges is needed in determining the appropriate sentence to be handed down but this type of action is the responsibility of Congress to make this kind of change. There are cases where there appears to be a double standard for the wealthy vs the poor. Our justice system needs to be fair to all individuals whether you are wealthy or not and their needs to be consistency across the board. The current system in place is neither consistent in the decisions made for the same crimes or fair to all individuals and the public. Whatever changes are made by Congress and there are proposals not being evaluated by both houses of Congress the safety of the public must be the prime consideration in making changes to the justice system.


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