Prison Release Reoffender & other Mandatory Minimums - Unconstitutional

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    Governor Jeb Bush, U.S. Sentencing Commission
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I support judicial discretion because the punishment must fit the crime and offender in every case. Judges -- not prosecutors or defense attorneys -- should determine appropriate sentences based on the facts of each case they consider, following the law and the sentencing guidelines. To insure that a judge's decision to depart from a guideline sentence meets standards for appropriate punishment, the prosecutor can appeal it. This safeguard prevents judges from delivering sentences that are too soft.

Judicial discretion is one of the hallmarks of American justice. Congress built departure authority into the sentencing system when it passed the Sentencing Reform Act in the mid-1980s. Departure power is a healthy and necessary part of a fair criminal justice system to ensure appropriate discretion.

I believe that mandatory minimums strip judges of the right to look at individuals on case by case basis. Instead, prosecutors are dictating the sentences and are often not proportionate to the crime committed. Judges are slowly loosing the power to do their jobs. Help stop the threat to judicial discretion. - Derived from www.famm.org website

The following are just three example cases where mandatory minimums have adversely affected those convicted:

1. Man sentenced to life after $20 robbery
2. Man sentenced to life after being convicted of armed burglary because he had stolen a screwdriver along with other items from an empty garage.
3. Man sentenced to mandatory 15 years after stealing a bicycle. He confessed immediately when an off duty police officer reported a suspicous person in the complex. The man then showed officers where he got the bike from and appologized to the victim. The victim even requested the man not get an enhanced mandatory sentence.

My reasons for being against mandatory minimums are as follows:

1. Increased sentences mean increased expenses for tax payers. At over $20,000 per year to incarcerate one inmate we should be focusing on rehabilitation and education, not keeping men and women in prison for periods disproportionate to their sentences.

2. The Prison Release Reoffender Act violates the Separation of Powers Doctrine guaranteed by Article II, Section III of the Florida Constitution.

3. When a prosecutor decides to impose a mandatory minimum under guidelines such as Habitual Felony Offender, Prison Release Reoffender, etc., the judge has NO discretion in sentencing. Mandatory minimums strip judges of judicial discretion. Men and women charged with crimes are not looked at on a case by case basis.

4. Too many people charged with non-violent crimes are serving unjust sentences for crimes where if sentenced under normal sentencing guidelines they would be released much sooner.


I am beginning this petition on behalf of Guy Haines who is spending the rest of his life in prison under the Prison Release Reoffender Act after being convicted of armed burglary of an unoccupied dwelling. He was convicted of breaking into an empty home and stealing various items of value including several guns. The crime is reprehensible, but life in prison? Guy had been released from prison with in three years of being charged with this crime, thus the PRRA. The judge in the case was the Honorable Kenneth Bell, now on the Florida Supreme Court. Judge Bell stated the following at the time of sentencing, "Mr. Haines, I'll agree with your counsel that I don't personally like the fact that legislature removes all discretion from a court in sentencing purposes... And I don't, as a judge, particularly like the fact that I have no discretion whatsoever, and that the mandatory sentence in the case is life. I think thats absurd in the case I have no ability to have any discretion in sentence.

Please see www.famm.org for additional information. This petition is in no way sponsored by any representative of FAMM, however, I have used some of the verbiage and information contained on their website.