When Electeds Won’t Take the Tough Vote to Stop Bad Policy. Supposedly it’s “CBC policy” to be against mandatory minimums. All I know is, 41 members of the Congressional Black Caucus voted YES to mandatory minimums today. Did they even notice the mandatory penalties were in the bill? In all, 420 members of the House voted YES to expanding federal mandatory minimum sentences that were added to a sex trafficking bill, S. 178.
The bill passed 99-0 in the Senate on April 22. So even Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY), who went on a media tour last year telling everyone how terrible mandatory minimum driven over-incarceration is, voted for a bill with redundant mandatory minimums – as if sex trafficking won’t be harshly punished without them. As if the judge and the prosecutor in a sex trafficking case can’t figure out a way to put someone guilty in jail for a really long time unless a mandatory penalty is available. The U.S. leads the world in incarceration for a reason.
RELATED: Meet 5 People Serving Crazy Sentences Because of Mandatory Minimums
When the over prosecutions arrive who do they come down on? Who do prosecutors pick out to pad their prosecution stats? When Rand Paul said yesterday that Bill Clinton, “put a generation of Black men in prison” he was joltingly accurate. And it was the mandatory minimum penalties featured in policy such as “three strikes you’re out” in the 1994 Clinton Crime Bill that assisted him.
Since no politician actually wants to explain why they voted against an otherwise useful bill with redundant mandatory minimums, 519 members of the House and Senate voted YES. Of course many members think mandatory minimums are just great (see: Chuck Schumer, Jeff Sessions, John Cornyn, Dianne Feinstein…). Others say they oppose them and keep voting YES rather than to do what few in public officials will rarely to do: Take the tough vote.
It’s one thing to say you’re against mandatory minimums. It’s another thing to actually take the hard votes. Rarely does anyone actually do it. Taking the hard votes in today’s politics and having the guts to explain why is likely what may be required to turn back mandatory minimums built up over 40 years. That only two members of the current Black Caucus — Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) — are willing to take a hard stand against mandatory minimums after all these years of incarceration and its after effects on Black families and communities is noteworthy.
For the 41 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who have recently been focused on criminal justice reform issues, voting YES to mandatory minimums is particularly ironic given that so many constituents in CBC districts have had their lives altered by the justice system.Lauren Victoria Burke is a writer, strategist and political analyst. She created Crewof42.com, a blog that covers the work of Black members of Congress, in 2009. She is a former Senate and House staffer and has had a very diverse career in politics and media. Ms. Burke appears regularly on NewsOneNow with Roland Martin on TVOne and has been seen on MSNBC. She holds a B.A. in History from The American University. E-mail anytime: LBurke007@gmail.com. Twitter: @Crewof42. Instagram: LVB325. The ideas and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and have complete editorial independence from any Politic365 partners, sponsors, or advertisers. For additional information about Politic365, please visit http://politic365.com/about/. More articles by Lauren Victoria Burke »