Just a note on the final outcome for the sentencing bill.
Last week, the Governor sent the bill back with an amendment addressing the lack of judicial discretion in the mandatory-no-parole cases. This is what some of us who voted against the bill hoped would happen —we hoped to endorse the Governor’s publicly stated concerns about the lack of judicial discretion and so encourage him to offer that amendment, which only he could do at this stage of the process.
However, in the final days of the session, the amendment was ultimately rejected by both branches, leaving the Governor with the choice of signing the package without the judicial discretion amendment or throwing out the whole package and getting nothing. He chose to accept the package. I do not fault the Governor for that decision — there were many positive elements in the bill and the three-strikes rules had been greatly narrowed. I believe that the lack of judicial discretion in the cases within the three-strikes rules will only very rarely result in an injustice.
Critics who talk about the Governor’s difficult decision as if the bill had not been greatly improved are being a little unfair. He didn’t just yield to pressure — I am sure he got lots of respectable advice that half a loaf was better than none. The bill does substantially reduce the mandatory minimum sentences. He signed the bill this morning.
I am very hopeful, based on statements that many in leadership positions have made, that we will continue to work on these issues in the next session. Hopefully, we can do more to moderate sentences for less serious offenders and bring our prison populations down to a level that is manageable. That is the key to doing a better job at identifying the most dangerous offenders and also the key to rehabilitating those who can be saved.