Mythbusters of the Federal Persuasion (Update)

Via Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy, the National Association of Assistant US Attorneys (NAAUSA) has issued a “white paper” to bust the “most dangerous myths” of sentencing reform.

Myth One: Our prison population is exploding because of the incarceration of
recreational drug users or low-level drug offenders.
Fact: Our federal prison population is not exploding, and those who are serving prison sentences for drug crimes are incarcerated because of drug trafficking crimes, not recreational drug use.

Myth Two: The federal prison population is a product of mandatory minimum
sentences for drug traffickers.
Fact: The majority of drug traffickers sentenced in federal court are not being
sentenced pursuant to mandatory minimum sentences.

Myth Three: Only violent drug dealers deserve lengthy prison sentences.
Fact: It is well-established drug trafficking is inherently violent and that all drug
dealing is dangerous taking the lives of thousands of Americans, destroying families, and undermining the moral fabric of our communities, regardless of whether any individual offender engages in an act of violence during the commission of a drug offense.

Myth Four: Federal mandatory minimum sentences are arbitrary; their reduction will
result in greater fairness and do little to disturb public safety.
Fact: Slashing federal mandatory minimum sentences will undermine the ability of law enforcement officials to dismantle drug trafficking organizations.

Myth Five: Minimum sentences for drug dealers should be reduced because drug
sentences have a disparate impact on minorities.
Fact: High-level drug trafficking is not committed by any group that mirrors the
nation’s demographics in terms of age, gender, or race and prosecutions can’t be expected to parallel those demographics.

Myth Six: Reducing the sentences for drug dealers will reduce our taxes.
Fact: It’s easier to quantify the costs of incarceration than the value of public safety.

They go on to explain, in detail, how the world will come to an end if every “drug trafficker” (they’re all traffickers. They’re always traffickers) isn’t locked away forever.  It’s well worth reading the white paper to have a deeper appreciation of how insipid their arguments, how colored their perspective and how self-serving their position is.

On the other hand, if you fear doped-up hippies breaking into your home at night and raping your children, you may find it slightly persuasive.

Inspired by this effort, I too join in the mythbusting business:

Myth: The NAAUSA’s position on the Smarter Sentencing Act is well grounded in fact and puts the safety of Americans ahead of the convenience of using draconian sentences and mandatory minimums to coerce pleas and cooperation from defendants.

Fact: Bullshit.

My work here is done. If you need more detail, then you haven’t been paying attention.

Update:  Fordham lawprof John Pfaff has put together a storify to bust the mythological myths that are and aren’t at all mythological. Or as the slogan of the NAAUSA says, “we don’t need no stinkin’ facts.”

13 thoughts on “Mythbusters of the Federal Persuasion (Update)

  1. Eliot Clingman

    In my house I have a bidet. So consequently I don’t need this “white paper” of which you speak.

        1. SHG Post author

          I try not to discriminate against bathroom humor, name humor or Star Trek references. It’s just how I roll.

  2. Nigel Declan

    It is hard to decide which is more disappointing: that the NAAUSA considers these sentencing reform arguments to by “myths” or that they seem to feel that “busting” them requires only a single sentence apiece. The former indicates that they have incorrect beliefs and attitudes; the latter suggest that these beliefs and attitudes lack any rational basis and that they see no need to meaningfully consider facts to the contrary.

    1. SHG Post author

      My sense is these “mythbusting” efforts are done because they play well with people who don’t know any better. It’s just propaganda, but what better way to present it than to but myths?

      1. losingtrader

        But, Scott, my question for you is , “Why the paper?”–as in , “Do they think they won’t have enough people to prosecute, or are they just drunk with the awesome power of their positions and don’t want to lose any of it’s discretion?
        Something else?

        1. Patrick Maupin

          I think they’re worried that shifting public opinion might take away some of that power and only leave a hangover.

          My takeaway from several conversations that I have had with pro-drug-war zealots is that the “think of the children” meme is highly effective, especially when one of the children might be a loved one. Apparently, if there is even a miniscule chance that the war on drugs will make it harder for the little angels to stray, well then, it’s worth any cost in taxes, civilians killed by cops, incarcerations for life, and stolen television sets.

          Note that the mythological myths 1 and 3 directly address this (we’re going to put away your little darlin’s supplier, but not your little darlin’), 6 addresses seeds of doubt that people like me might plant, 5 does both (yeah, we put away a lot people who don’t look like you, and that’s a good thing if you think hard about it, right?) and 2 and 4 are naked attempts to keep the tools that make the prosecutors’ jobs so much easier.

  3. Patrick Maupin

    if you fear doped-up hippies breaking into your home at night and raping your children…

    The more realistic fear around here would be un-doped up people breaking in to steal a $2000 TV they can pawn for $200, so they can get doped up again.

    1. SHG Post author

      So your point is that my hyperbole for the sake of making a point was completely lost on you, and you felt compelled to leave this comment instead because this isn’t the obvious answer that’s been around for about 30 years now?

      1. Patrick Maupin

        That was hyperbole? I just thought we must know some of the same people — you describe their thinking perfectly.

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