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.Executive Director of the Sentencing Project, Marc Mauer, praised Rep.
As the article states, "Defense attorneys in Washington say that the clemency process -- the only route to freedom for the state's three strikes inmates -- is cumbersome and expensive," as "the state does not provide public defenders for clemency petitioners." Moreover, "defendants in some Washington counties still face life prison charges for strings of relatively minor crimes," according to Washington Defender Association director Christie Hedman.
As the Los Angeles Times reported on August 11, 2009 ("Washington State Revisits Three-Strikes Law"), officials in Washington state are working to change the fates of those serving life in prison as a result of mandatory minimum "three strikes" laws; Washington passed its "law requiring criminals with three serious felony convinctions to spend the rest of their lives in prison" in 1993, becoming the first state to do so (though "California followed suit the next year, and 24 other states now have similar laws").
However, in May of 2009, Governor Chris Gregoire signed the first "appeal for clemency" in the case of Stephen Dozier, "making him the first three-strikes lifer in the nation to be pardoned." Indeed, "the [state's] district attorney's officer, the conservative talk radio host who coauthored Washington's law, and the judge who sentenced [Dozier] all came to agree" recently "that despite the public's demand to keep career criminals behind bars, three strikes shouldn't always mean never getting out." Dozier received his sentence after being convicted on three separate purse-snatching charges in attempts to feed his crack cocaine habit; in committing his crimes, Dozier "never caused a serious injury or used a weapon," but he nevertheless "disappeared behind bars without the possibility of parole -- along with more than 290 other Washington inmates convicted under the state's tough three-strikes law." Luckily, Dozier is now out of prison, as are at least two other inmates - Al-Kareem Shadeed and Michael Bridges - "who had both been sentenced to life without parole in the mid-1990s for stealing wallets." Dozier, Shadeed, and Bridges have the state of Washington's decision to review "the cases of some nonviolent three-strikes prisoners and mov[e] to release those [...] who probably would not face such a severe penalty today," now that "many states apply [three-strikes laws] more sparingly" and "[p]rosecutors and judges often use the discretion provided them to avoid charging a defendant whose past consists of minor robberies or assualt convictions with a third-strike offense," to thank for their freedom.
In a disappointing move, the Canadian House of Commons passed "the controversial C-15 mandatory minimum sentencing drug offense bill" in early June of 2009, according to the Drug War Chronicle's June 12 feature article ("In Bold Step Backward, Canadian House of Commons Passes Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentencing Bill").
The Chronicle reports that, "Bowing to the wishes of [...] Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Liberal Party Members of Parliament (MPs) joined Monday with Harper's Conservatives" to approve the measure after an unsuccessful filibuster attempt by opposing NDP and Bloc MPs.