Strange — even disastrous — things can happen during an election year.
It’s the time when politicians do what they think their constituents want — or do what they think will make them look good in the eyes of voters.
Take the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Gov. Mike Pence, for example.
Pence, with considerable bluster, signed a bill last week to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for someone convicted of dealing heroin or methamphetamine who has a prior conviction for dealing those two drugs or cocaine.
The governor and friends are delusional if they think that law is going to stop anyone from selling a bit of dope to support their own habit.
That law will have no more impact than the death penalty does in stopping someone from taking another person's life.
There was a mood in this country some 25 years ago to “lock them up and throw away the key.” That prompted Congress to adopt sentencing guidelines that included mandatory minimums for all federal offenses.
It was a low point in this nation’s judicial history.
What the guidelines did was fill our prisons with those who sold a joint or two to support their own drug habit. And the vast majority of those who spent time behind bars were black and Hispanic.
I can remember sitting in courtrooms when judges apologized to defendants because they had no option other than to issue an unfair sentence.
But, hey, those politicians who voted for the mandatory minimums loved telling their constituents how many people they helped put in prison.
The bill approved by the Legislature and signed by Pence isn’t going to curtail the sale of drugs in Indiana. No, it is going to fill our prisons with people who by and large need help — not jail time.
Besides those who will spend an extraordinary amount of time in prison, the biggest loser in the state’s new drug law is the judiciary.
I’ve got to think the judge presiding over a case has a better feeling for an appropriate sentence than does the majority of the General Assembly.
There can be any number of contributing factors the judge sees and would influence the sentence he dishes out — be it less time or more.
With the Legislature essentially handing down a sentence, it gives new meaning to the thought that justice is blind.
While this bill may gain a few votes for its supporters in the electorate, I can’t help but wonder about the negative impacts.
We elect or appoint judges to make decisions. We shouldn’t be taking that away from them simply because some elected legislator thinks it will result in political gain.