Sentencing Reform Pushes to Make the Punishment Fit the Crime

Post Date: December 12, 2013

Prisoners(National  Journal) — Weldon Angelos is in his ninth year of a 55-year prison term. But he isn’t locked up for murder or anything of the sort. Angelos sold $350 worth of marijuana while allegedly carrying a gun and having more guns back at his home.

Angelos’s sentencing judge, Paul Cassell, called the punishment “cruel, and unusual, unwise and unjust.” On the same day he sentenced Angelos under federal mandatory minimum-sentencing rules, Cassell sent a second-degree murderer to prison for 22 years, which he says was the maximum under sentencing guidelines.

But the tide could be turning for people like Angelos. On Capitol Hill, momentum for sentencing reform is the highest it’s been in years.

The reforms focus on everything from penalties for drug crimes to “overcriminalization”—how federal statutes duplicate crimes covered by state laws. They also look at federal penalties that never received congressional approval but were developed by federal agencies. Read more