Life Sentences for Low-Level Crimes

The New York Times yesterday published a Letter to the Editor from ECM (see below), which decried what was called “a grotesque misuse of government power,” described in the Dec. 12 article, “For Lesser Crimes, Rethinking Life Behind Bars.” Prison sentences disproportionate to the crimes committed are causing collateral damage to tens of thousands of children. Please take time to read the Times article as well as the chapter on Prisons in ECM’s 3rd edition of Homeland Insecurity:


For Lesser Crimes, Rethinking Life Behind Bars” (“Time and Punishment” series, front page, Dec. 12) reveals the injustices and ruined lives emanating from barbaric policies that punish low-level drug crimes with life imprisonment. Sentences are way out of proportion to the crimes committed. Widespread pardons and commutations are in order.

Forget the economic costs to society. These policies deserve to crumble because they are immoral. Confining Stephanie George, a mother of three, and one of the cases described in the story, for life, in an 11-by-7-foot cell shared with another person, for possession of half a kilogram of cocaine is a grotesque misuse of government power.

Americans perhaps prize individual freedom above all else, yet no other democracy permanently locks up so many of its citizens.

President, Every Child Matters
Washington, Dec. 12, 2012