The Sentencing Project, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, has issued a guide to platforms of the three leading presidential candidates on criminal justice issues involving sentencing. A few excerpts: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) “believes mandatory sentences for certain violent crimes are appropriate, but have been applied too broadly and in ways that are unfair to minority offenders.” Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) has proposed abolishing mandatory minimum sentences; he promises to review all minimum sentences and eliminate those that are too harsh. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) supports mandatory sentences for selling illegal drugs.
On the war on drugs, Clinton supports drug courts for low-level offenders and believes the focus should be on treatment; Obama supports drug courts for first-time, non-violent offenders, and believes the focus should be on prevention and unemployment. McCain supports mandatory sentences for drug dealers, but believes too many first-time drug offenders – not dealers – are in prison. On the death penalty, McCain supports it; Clinton supports it but seeks competent defense counsel and DNA testing. Obama opposed the death penalty in his Senate race but now backs it for heinous crimes. He led support for referms to avoid wrongful convictions. The Sentencing Project notes that McCain opposed the Racial Justice Act, which proposed allowing inmates to prove racial discrimination by using sentencing statistics in death-sentence appeals.