Walter was sentenced to federal prison for 55 years — for a first offense of distributing small amounts of marijuana and the possession of three firearms. 55 years! Here’s a list of offenses that would receive a much shorter sentence than that received by Walter:
– Leading three major narcotics trafficking rings, resulting in three deaths;
– Hijacking three aircraft on separate occasions;
– Raping three 10-year old children; and
– Committing a second-degree murder (which would receive less than one-fourth the sentence received by Walter).
Please excuse the abrasive nature of these offenses shared for comparison. They were actually provided by the sentencing judge who called the additional 55-year sentence required by a federal mandatory minimum sentencing statute “unjust, disproportionate to his offense, demeaning to victims of actual criminal violence — but nonetheless constitutional.” If the case had been pursued in state court, Walter would likely have been paroled after serving about 2-3 years in prison. Even if a straight application of sentencing guidelines had been applied to all of Walter’s conduct, it would only have resulted in a maximum sentence of just over 10 years. Walter has already served a longer sentence than that. The sentencing judge calls the sentence “unjust, cruel, and even irrational”, while legal scholars and commentators have argued that the sentence amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. 55 years for distributing small amounts of marijuana and possessing firearms.
And Walter has also done his part to demonstrate successful rehabilitation. He has avoided trouble while working hard to gain the skills he needs to re-enter civil society. He has accumulated 63 college credits, which he plans to transfer to a four year college in order to obtain his Bachelor’s degree in Business Management. He could also apply his 3000 hours of training in managing a dental laboratory (which he already put into practice in prison as a dental laboratory clerk) and his 480 hour class in graphic design, which he has used as a photo editing tutor. Walter has three children and an ailing father he wants to take care of, a sister and family ready to embrace him, and is committed to working hard to succeed. But 55 years…