Drudge Retort: The Other Side of the News
Friday, July 11, 2014

A former Republican member of Congress is ready to join the fight for sentencing reform and rolling back harsh mandatory minimums for drug crimes. Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), 72, is now a free man after a federal judge ended his supervised release early following seven years in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons on corruption charges. "Unfortunately, some of my Democrat colleagues were right and I was wrong on some issues as far as criminal justice," Cunningham said, specifically regretting votes for mandatory minimums for drug crimes that take discretion away from federal judges and give federal prosecutors a tremendous amount of leverage over defendants.


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Cunningham's new outlook on criminal justice after a prison term puts him in the same camp as former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who has also advocated for reform after his own stint in federal prison. Even outside of those serving for drug crimes, Cunningham said, he met plenty of people behind bars who didn't deserve to be there.


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"We have taken out of the judge's hands the ability to be merciful in some reasons or to do the right thing," Cunningham said. "I've heard case after case where the judges have said, 'I wish I could help you, but my hands are tied.' I want to untie the hands of our judges."

"I saw kids in there who are 19 to 30. They go into prison, they maybe got caught with cocaine or rock or something like that, and they give them 10 years minimum. What do they do when they get out?" Cunningham said. "There's a lot of very nice guys that got caught up.... There was a kid in there that just turned 21, he was in a national forest and they were having a paintball fight," Cunningham said. "They gave him a year and a day, made him a felon and 20 years old. Now things like that are just wrong."

Cunningham said he's done a "180 turn" on criminal justice, and wishes he could take back many of the votes he made back when he was a member of Congress.... My Democrat colleagues would support the lawyers. We'd support the prosecutors," he said. "I think I'd vote more with my Democrat colleagues today."

The headline is hyperbolic on purpose, but it does state a provable truth: High-flying politicians and wealthy people who run afoul of the justice system that spend time behind bars find an awful lot wrong with the system that has nothing to do with their own responsibilities as criminals. Chuck Colson has made a post-prison career trying to help the plight of those locked up and has made many positive contributions on correcting rightable wrongs.

Justice doesn't only mean removing public threats from society. It should mean that the punishments fit the crimes and that our prosecutors only seek to incarcerate those truly deserving it. In the best of all possible worlds, it would also mean a real concerted effort to right the many wrongs already perpetrated against innocent or overcharged victims of this unjust system.

#1 | Posted by tonyroma at 2014-07-11 04:51 PM | Reply | Flag:

Thanks, Tony.

Good thread. We, as a country lock up way too many Americans.

#2 | Posted by oldwhiskeysour at 2014-07-11 05:22 PM | Reply | Flag:

And too many non Americans, also.

#3 | Posted by oldwhiskeysour at 2014-07-11 05:22 PM | Reply | Flag:

Our justice system is one of the largest employers in the nation. If we ever had genuine reform, a lot of people would be out of a job. But then again the system has always been about money and jobs, and never really about justice for the masses.

#4 | Posted by moder8 at 2014-07-11 05:32 PM | Reply | Flag: | Newsworthy 1

They've been wasting whatever you're getting, that's for sure.

#5 | Posted by Harry_Powell at 2014-07-11 06:52 PM | Reply | Flag:

One of the differences between conservatives and liberals is that most liberals feel empathy for the poor, the mentally ill, even those who are criminals while conservatives don't. Thus conservatives don't understand the need for compassion for gays, criminals, poor people, insane people until they have a gay son like Rob Portman, until they go to prison like former Rep. Cunningham, etc.

#6 | Posted by danni at 2014-07-11 07:01 PM | Reply | Flag: | Funny: 1 | Newsworthy 3

They need to let the potheads out of jail, and throw the entire Bush administration for their crimes and those in congress at that time in prison for voting for the Iraq war (and yes that includes Hillary and many democrats).

#7 | Posted by aborted_monson at 2014-07-11 09:49 PM | Reply | Flag:

The other difference is that Republicans "think with their gut." In other words, vindictively and emotionally, not logically. A logical response to crime is to do that which reduces it - rehabilitation and reform, ending criminal records that make people with past mistakes un-hireable. The old "carrot and stick" combination of punishing people for their crimes, but then offering them a better alternative. I can't count the number of times I've seen the conservative response to someone who made a mistake while young, that ruined their whole future, just be a completely negligent "then they shouldn't have committed the crime" - no. They shouldn't.

But a rational view of long term consequences contains the understanding that if you don't want people to repeat past mistakes, or worse, escalate them to more violent levels, you have to offer them enough to have something to lose. A path to redemption. Those who have nothing to lose are doubly dangerous. Unable to contribute to society, doomed to hang on its edges or leech from it, and yet, possessed of the same goals to matter, to achieve some social status and possessions, they almost can't be blamed for going back to crime. But that's the end result of policies more concerned with punishment than results.

#8 | Posted by zeropointnrg at 2014-07-12 12:13 AM | Reply | Flag: | Funny: 1 | Newsworthy 1

Drug laws were clearly originated and are current only because their illegality makes them more lucrative for the mafia. The mafia & the radically religious (interesting bedfellows) are the sustainers of drug laws. (Yes, Randolph Hearst was the primary instigator for pot being illegal, motivated simply by his greed & racism.) Conservatives have liked prison for pot smokers as well as hard drug addicts, because that disenfranchised them from the vote (one reason crack flooded the inner cities). Marijuana and rock music fueled the massive Vietnam-era protests, and the former is still perceived as a threat by The Establishment.

#9 | Posted by kenx at 2014-07-12 05:43 AM | Reply | Flag:

lock up Limbaugh and Beck, then we'll talk.

#10 | Posted by ichiro at 2014-07-12 07:06 AM | Reply | Flag:

Under George BushI CIA controlled airplanes ran cocaine into the United States in order to fund an illegal war against Nicaragua that Democrats in Congress had cut off funding for. This activity, under the nose of the DEA, occurred at the same time that the manufacture of crack from cocaine was discovered, fueling a national crime and prison spree of epidemic proportions. Yet, no one responsible for those crimes served a minute in prison or even faced prosecution. The crimes were so abominable and linked so directly to our Government that it was deemed best to just cover the whole thing up.

#11 | Posted by nutcase at 2014-07-12 09:37 AM | Reply | Flag:

I should say no one in Government paid the price, Freeway Freddie one recipient of the cocaine, did hard time.

#12 | Posted by nutcase at 2014-07-12 09:38 AM | Reply | Flag:

The reason drugs have been so criminalized while, at the same time, pharmaceutical companies pump out billions of doses beyond the actual needs of the medical industry is that it insures that we will always be able to marginalize large portions of society and thereby insure that the ruling class remains at the top of government, business, universities, etc. We do not have a hereditary nobility so we create a defacto one by the use of criminalizing millions who will then be prevented from competing with the offspring of the non-marginalized. We even have a justice system which is very manipulatable by the wealthy so that if their children should break the law they will be able to avoid any consequences for their crimes.

#13 | Posted by danni at 2014-07-12 09:46 AM | Reply | Flag:


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