Paul Howard, Fulton County district attorney, in the AJC, Feb. 17: “What is the effect of the mandatory minimums? In Atlanta, since 1994 when the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ took effect, the violent crime rate has dropped 62 percent. The sentences handed down in our criminal justice system should be fair and just, and each defendant must receive equal treatment. So every time I hear of the judges talking about wanting more discretion, I am reminded of sentencing disparities. Black defendants are at least 30 percent more likely to be in prison for the same crime. Whenever the judges are allowed to sentence at their discretion, the disparity increases. That’s why I believe it’s important that everyone who commits a similar crime should receive a similar sentence. There is racial disparity. One of the best ways to avoid it is to make the sentences the same. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but it does provide a measure of protection because it provides a system of fairness.
Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills, from a 2012 open letter critical of sentencing reform that was later approved: “I find it truly incredible and absolutely amazing that such drastic changes could happen so quickly, especially since the vast majority of the citizens of this state have no knowledge of the consequences that will follow these changes in our laws.
“Every thief, burglar, check forger, and hoodlum from Trenton to Tybee, from Bainbridge to Blue Ridge, will be grinning from ear to ear.”
From a February 7 message by Sills on gun control, posted on the sheriff’s department website: “The media very rarely even makes mention of a criminal’s previous arrest record. Last year, our General Assembly rammed through legislation that they called “Criminal Justice Reform.” In reality it was nothing more than a statutory degradation of morality, as its primary component did nothing more than change a litany of felony crimes, making them misdemeanors and shifting the burden of cost from the state government back to the counties.
Governor Deal touted that it was simply too expensive to keep criminals in prison because we were mad at them. I believe we should be nothing less than furious with recidivist criminals. The emotional and financial expenses that victims and others are left with in the wake of their incessant pernicious voyages far exceeds the cost of keeping the savages caged and away from society.”