How congress can restore justice through judicial discretion

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As the nation soaks in the victory of the recent passing of the historic First Step Act, there are Congressmen who haven't stopped working to solve additional problems with the criminal justice system. Because while the Act was impactful, leading to the well-deserved early release of many incarcerated individuals, it didn't go far enough. That's why four Congressmen have joined forces to reintroduce the Justice Safety Valve Act—legislation that would grant judges judicial discretion when determining appropriate sentencing.

There's a real need for this legislation since it's no secret that lawmakers don't always get it right. They may pass laws with good intentions, but unintended consequences often prevail. For example, there was a time when the nation believed the best way to penalize lawbreakers was to be tough on crime, leading to sweeping mandatory minimum sentencing laws implemented both nationally and statewide.

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Only in recent years have governments learned that these sentences aren't good policy for the defendant or even the public. Mandatory minimum sentences are often overly harsh, don't act as a public deterrent for crime, and are extremely costly to taxpayers. These laws tie judges' hands, preventing them from using their knowledge and understanding of the law to make case relevant decisions.

Because legislation surrounding criminal law is often very touchy and difficult to change (especially on the federal level, where bills can take multiple years to pass) mandatory minimum sentences are far from being done away with—despite the data-driven discoveries of their downfalls. But in order to solve the problems inherent within all of the different laws imposing sentencing lengths, Congress needs to pass the Justice Safety Valve Act now. Ensuring its passing would allow judges to use discretion while sentencing, rather than forcing them to continue issuing indiscriminate sentences no matter the unique facts of the case.

Rather than take years to go back and try to fix every single mandatory minimum law that has been federally passed, moving this single piece of legislation forward is the best way to ensure judges can apply their judgment in every appropriate case.

When someone is facing numerous charges from a single incident, mandatory minimum sentencing laws stack atop one another, resulting in an extremely lengthy sentence that may not be just. Such high sentences may even be violations of an individual's eighth amendment rights, what with the imposition of cruel and unusual punishment. It's exactly what happened with Weldon Angelos.

In Salt Lake City in 2002, Weldon sold half a pound of marijuana to federal agents on two separate occasions. Unbeknownst to Weldon, the police had targeted him because they suspected he was a part of a gang and trafficking operation. They were oh-so-wrong. Weldon had never sold marijuana before and only did this time because he was pressured by the agents to find marijuana for them. He figured a couple lowkey sales could help out his family's financial situation. But Weldon was caught and sentenced to a mandatory 55 years in prison. This massive sentence is clearly unjust for a first time, non-violent crime, and even the Judge, Paul Cassell, agreed. Judge Cassell did everything he could to reduce the sentence, but, due to federal law, it wasn't much.

The nation is facing an over-criminalization problem that costs taxpayers millions and amounts to the foolish eradication of individual liberties.

In cases like Weldon's, a safety valve for discretionary power is much needed. Judges need the ability to issue sentences below the mandatory minimums, depending on mitigating factors such as mental health, provocation, or physical illness. That's what this new bill would allow for. Critics may argue that this gives judges too much power, but under the bill, judges must first make a finding on why it's necessary to sentence below the mandatory minimum. Then, they must write a clear statement explaining their decision.

Judges are unlikely to risk their careers to allow dangerous criminals an early release. If something happens after an offender is released early, the political pressure is back on the judge who issued the shorter sentence—and no one wants that kind of negative attention. In order to avoid risky situations like this, they'd use their discretion very cautiously, upholding the oath they took to promote justice in every case.

The nation is facing an overcriminalization problem that costs taxpayers millions and amounts to the foolish eradication of individual liberties. Mandatory minimums have exacerbated this problem, and it's time for that to stop. Congresswomen and men have the opportunity to help solve this looming problem by passing the Justice Safety Valve Act to untie the hands of judges and restore justice in individual sentences.

Molly Davis is a policy analyst at Libertas Institute, a free market think tank in Utah. She's a writer for Young Voices, and her work has previously appeared in The Hill, TownHall.com, and The Washington Examiner.

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Protests following the fatal police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr quickly devolved into violence, rioting, and looting in Philadelphia, and BlazeTV's Elijah Schaffer was there to document what the mainstream media won't. But while filming the carnage inside a Five Below on Tuesday, Elijah was surrounded and attacked by looters.

Elijah joined Glenn Beck on the radio program Wednesday to detail his experience and to explain why mainstream media efforts to downplay the violence just show that independent media has never been more important.

"Unfortunately, [the attack] escalated from one person to about a dozen very quickly," Elijah explained. "I'm actually really happy to be alive. Because in that same shopping center, right there, there was a 15-year-old girl who was shot, according to reports. And I heard multiple gunshots throughout the night. Another individual is reported to have heard a gunshot as well, so we try to confirm. I watched people get pummeled beyond belief."

Glenn asked Elijah to respond to mainstream media claims that conservatives are exaggerating the looting and violence in Philadelphia.

"It's so funny to hear people that aren't there try to counter what we're reporting," Elijah replied.

Watch the video below to catch more of the conversation:

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In the final days before the 2020 election, President Donald Trump is gaining among black voters, particularly men, because his record of accomplishments "speaks for itself" and the "façade" that President Trump is a racist "just doesn't ring true," argued sports columnist Jason Whitlock on "The Glenn Beck Radio Program" Tuesday.

Jason, who recently interviewed the president at the White House for OutKick.com, shared his thoughts on why he believes many black Americans — notably celebrities such as Kanye West, Ice Cube, and 50 Cent — are breaking from the "façade" that President Trump is a "flaming racist."

"I really believe the facts are starting to speak for themselves, and that Donald Trump's record of accomplishments, particularly as it relates to African Americans, speaks for itself," Jason told Glenn. "He actually has a record to stand on, unlike even Barack Obama. When [Obama] was president, I don't think he had much of a record to stand on, in terms of, 'Hey, what did he actually deliver for African Americans?' President Trump has things he can stand on and, you know, beyond that I think black people understand when he starts talking about black unemployment rate. And America's unemployment rate. And then, when you add in for black men, the façade we've been putting on [President Trump] … you know, this whole thing that he's some flaming racist, it just doesn't ring true."

Jason suggested that Trump's fearlessness, unabashed masculinity, and record of keeping his promises resonates with men in the black community. He also weighed in on how media and social media's bias plays a huge role in convincing people to hate President Trump while ignoring Antifa and others on the Left.

"I keep explaining to people, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, they're some of the most secular places on earth. And we've reduced everyone to a tweet, that we disagree with," he added.

Watch the video below to catch more of the conversation:

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Megyn Kelly is not happy about the "disgusting" media coverage of President Donald Trump, specifically pointing to Lesley Stahl's "60 Minutes" interview on CBS Sunday.

On the radio program, Megyn told Glenn Beck the media has become so blinded by the "Trump Derangement Syndrome" that they've lost their own credibility — and now they can't get it back.

"It's disgusting. It's stomach-turning," Megyn said of the media's coverage of the president. "But it's just a continuation of what we've seen over the past couple of years. Their 'Trump Derangement Syndrome' has blinded them to what they're doing to their own credibility. They can't get it back. It's too late. They've already sacrificed it. And now no one is listening to them other than the hard partisans for whom they craft their news."

Megyn also discussed how she would have covered the recent stories about Hunter and Joe Biden's alleged corruption. Watch the video below to catch more of the conversation:


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