On criminal justice, Sessions is returning DOJ to the rule of law

In light of the caterwauling about mandatory-minimum sentencing by people either unfamiliar with or in a state of amnesia about what the federal system was like before it was instituted, it is worth repeating: Such provisions mean that the public, rather than the judge, decides the minimum appropriate term for serious crimes. As a class, judges are elite products of American universities and tend to be more left-leaning than the general public. That is particularly the case with respect to President Obama’s 335 judicial appointees, many of them — like Obama himself, as well as Vance and Stewart — philosophically resistant to incarceration as a response to crime. We can certainly repeal mandatory minimums, but if we do, it will vest those judges with unfettered discretion to mete out punishment. Rest assured, such sentences will not resemble the ones most of us would impose. Note also what the “reformers” do not tell you about mandatory minimums: (a) Congress has enacted a “safety valve” that allows a judge to waive them in cases involving first offenders whose crimes do not involve guns; and (b) they can also be waived if a defendant cooperates with government investigations. By and large, mandatory minimums are applied to hardcore criminals — as one would expect, since they are mainly triggered by very large amounts of illegal narcotics and the use of firearms during violent crimes.