I don't usually comment on political affairs in the United States, but this story from south of the border deserves a comment or two. After being sentenced to serve 30 months in prison, and employing every stall tactic available under the constitution, Scooter Libby had his sentence commuted by President Bush. Claiming the sentence imposed by the court was "excessive," Bush took it upon himself to override the judge and jury that spent weeks hearing the case by altering the penalty.
If Bush is suddenly so concerned about cases where judges have meted out excessive" terms of incarceration, then he would do well to spend his remaining term in office examining the crowded prisons in the States and the justice system that puts over 2 million of its own citizens behind bars, many of them visible minorities. A large percentage of these convicts have already paid a far heftier price for lesser offences than Libby. Half are estimated to be casualties of the misguided War on Drugs.
Under the "Three Strikes and you're Out" laws, there are Americans serving prison sentences of 25 years with no chance of parole for mundane misdemeanours such as stealing a slice of pizza or, like nearly half of the prison population, possession of small amounts of marijuana. In fact, draconian drug laws leave the courts little option to impose penalties, since merely being arrested determines the automatic sentence. This puts far to much discretion into the hands of police and removes due process through the justice system.
Details of some of the individual cases are heart-wrenching. Fathers won't see their kids grow up for being caught with a joint. The disparity between the incarceration rate of whites verses non-whites may well represent one of the last frontiers for segregation in the country.
Perhaps this would be a good time for Bush to examine and update the American justice system that places a premium on punishment rather than rehabilitation. With Conrad Black facing a hundred years in prison for a 'victimless crime' and others living on death row based on suspect evidence and shoddy prosecution, the entire system needs an overhaul. While he's at it, Bush should figure out a way for the untried captives in Guantanamo Bay to begin receiving due process.