September 3, 2012
August is traditionally a very slow time in Washington D.C., especially in an election year. Members of Congress return home to meet with constituents, campaign for election, and take vacations with their families. You’d think FAMM staff could relax in August, reveling in the quiet of the city. But you’d be wrong. August is the perfect time to get the attention of congressional staffers who have time on their hands, for a change, since their bosses are home.
This August, FAMM’s government affairs counsel, Molly Gill, made a point of visiting the offices of a dozen members of Congress who serve on the House or Senate Judiciary Committees. Her purpose was to remind them of FAMM’s priorities and ask for their help. Members and their staff are busy with lots of different issues so it’s important to get in front of them as often as possible and remind them why mandatory minimum laws do not work. Molly was joined in several meetings by FAMM’s VP and general counsel, Mary Price, who also made good use of the quiet month to talk to key players at the Justice Department, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, and the U.S. Judicial Conference. All of these meetings are important for us to gather intelligence about what others are thinking and planning - and to let them know our ideas. While it’s true that most people in Washington are focused on the election, we want to be ready to hit the ground running no matter who wins.
The presidential election went into full swing in August with the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Of particular interest to me was the fact that the drug war was not mentioned in the Republican platform on crime this year but it was four years ago, as explained in this excellent article.
Also, that a number of the prime-time speakers who graced the stage during the three-day summit have led the way for sentencing reform in their states. Governors John Kasich (OH), Chris Christie (NJ), and Mary Fallin (OK) have all signed sentencing reform bills and made positive statements about why reform is needed. Former governor Mike Huckabee (AR) has acknowledged that we cannot incarcerate our way out of the drug war, and U.S. Senator Rand Paul (KY) is our Republican champion in the Senate for blocking passage of mandatory minimums. So, even though the Republican platform on crime still calls for mandatory minimums, it’s clear that not every Republican is in lock-step with the platform. Check out this short YouTube video of great quotes about sentencing from some of the convention speakers.
And in case anyone needs to be reminded that sentencing reform changes lives, listen to what we’re hearing from Massachusetts. Remember, last month the Governor signed a bill into law that included many of our sentencing reforms. Scores of prisoners have been released early as a result of the reforms and now we’re feeling their love. Here’s a sampling:
FAMM is wonderful and I respect the people that are behind it, because if we didn't have this I wouldn't have hope to one day get my Dad home.
My family is so excited we cannot believe it. Where would we be without your efforts? We cannot thank you enough!!!!!!
This will hopefully give my loved one a 2½ year advancement on finding work and going back to college - makes a huge difference for someone that has been away from society for 8 years since the young age of 22.
Thank you again for all of your time, work and effort - you have made a tremendous contribution to the lives and spirits of those serving mandatory minimum sentences.
And that is why there are no lazy summer days at FAMM: The harder we work, the more lives we can improve. And what can be more satisfying, really?
Happy Labor Day –