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Louie Gohmert stated that "Judges should not be free to sentence felonies as misdemeanors.
If there is no bottom to the range there will be more incidents where people will be killed or harmed because of light sentences." However, with two House bills currently aimed at increasing judicial discretion or repealing mandatory minimums altogether, legislators will have the opportunity to utilize their own discretion if and when the measures move out of Committee.
However, the aforementioned review does not mean that all prisoners who deserve clemency will receive it.
The "Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act" now passes onto the full House, where it will hopefully gain approval, as well.
On July 22, 2009 Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) released a victorious statement ("Subcommittee Votes to Equalize Cocaine Punishments"), announcing that "the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security unanimously passed H. 3245, the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009." If the remainder of their House colleagues and counterparts in the Senate approve the bill as well, all "references to 'cocaine base'" will be "remove[d] from the U. Code, effectively treating all cocaine, including crack, the same for sentencing purposes." The bill would - rather than raising penalties for powder cocaine to the same level as those currently in place for crack cocaine or simply ratcheting down the disparity's ratio, as some earlier proposals suggested - entirely equalize crack and powder cocaine sentencing statutes.
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As the Chronicle writes, "MP Libby Davis (NDP-Vancouver East) told Vancouver's Cannabis Culture magazine [that] 'The evidence shows very, very strongly [...] that mandatory minimum sentencing is not an effective policy when it comes to drug crime.'" According to "Vancouver marijuana activist and Cannabis Culture publisher Marc Emery, [...] 'Mid and upper-level traffickers will get no particular increase in punishment, because a major dealer would already get six months or a year for any kind of trafficking.'" He asserted that the measure would instead affect "people who wouldn't normally go to jail" and that young people would comprise the vast majority of those new prisoners.
Although, according to the Chronicle, the Canadian Senate - where the bill next stops - "typically -- but not always -- defers to the House" in legislative affairs, opponents of the measure hope but do not necessarily expect that the Senate will "act to block the passage of C-15" or at least "kill the bill by refusing to act on it before new elections are called." If the Senate does not exercise the above mentioned options, however, Canada will take a rare step backward by enacting draconian, harmful, and ineffective mandatory minimum drug policies just as other nations - including the United States - are beginning to realize the negative consequences such measures carry.
A recent poll indicates that American attitudes regarding mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenders may be experiencing a dramatic shift toward individualized sentencing.
According to the Christian Science Monitor September 25, 2008 article, ("Poll: 60 percent of Americans oppose mandatory minimum sentences") "In a new poll, some 60 percent of respondents opposed mandatory minimums for nonviolent crimes, including a majority of both Democrats and Republicans.
David Borden, Executive Director of the Drug Reform Coordination Network (or Stopthe Drug War.org), expressed excitement in a post for the Drug War Chronicle's blog, and Emily Zia of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office characterized the vote as a "historic moment" ("Finally Cracking the Disparity: It's About Time! FAMM President Julie Stewart stated that "While the vote may be one small step for this bill, it is one giant step for sentencing sanity." She added, "If Congress eliminates the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, it would not only restore faith in the justice system among the communities most affected by the law, it would reduce prison overcrowding and free up funding for more effective rehabilitation efforts." Stewart also made it clear that "FAMM strongly urges Congress to make the changes retroactive so that people currently serving unjust sentences for crack cocaine can benefit and taxpayers will see even greater savings" For more about this incredible development and general information on the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity, visit the above-mentioned organizations' websites and/or check out Drug War Facts' section on the issue. Maxine Waters and dubbed the "Major Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2009;" and the "Ramos and Compean Justice Act of 2009," also known as H. Scott's bill "would allow courts to sentence below a mandatory minimum where the sentence violates the principals of sentencing defined by statute: punishment, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation." Waters' proposed legislation "would eliminate all mandatory sentences for drug offenses," and Poe's bill seeks to "amend [federal code] to exempt law enforcement officers from mandatory minimum sentences [...] for possessing or using a firearm in connection with a crime of violence," providing that the weapons are "carried [by officers] to perform their job[s] and [...] used in relation to the performance of [that] job." Thus, Waters' bill would implement the most radical and sweeping changes to mandatory minimum sentencing schemes, while Poe's bill lies on the far side of the spectrum and Scott's sits somewhere slightly left of center.
You can also track the bill yourself via Gov Track. 2934, or "the 'Common Sense in Sentencing Act of 2009;" H. The Subcommitte heard convincing testimony from such strange bedfellows as activist group FAMM's President and Founder Julie Stewart and Republican Grover Norquist, who heads Americans for Tax Relief.
Nearly 80 percent said the courts are best qualified to determine sentences for crimes, and nearly 60 percent said they'd be likely to vote for a politician who opposed mandatory minimum sentences." The article states, "The current spate of mandatory minimums has its root in the crime wave of the 1980s, when fears about crack cocaine, in particular, led lawmakers to draft tougher measures to deter dealers.