Martin Sheen: Congress is considering sentencing reform that would change how our system uses mandatory minimums. A basic principle of justice is that the punishment should fit the crime. Mandatory minimums undermine that principle by forcing judges to ignore individual circumstances.
Jim Gray: I've known of several judges, federal and state who are literally in tears because they know that the sentence is inappropriate but they have to follow the law and so they would apologize to people that as they are sending them to prison, they know full well that they shouldn't even be a prison sentence. But thats what the law requires. No one, no one can in advance decide a reasonable sentence without knowing what the circumstances were. You can't do that reasonably. You need to have judges with discretion to be able to make those decisions.
Martin Sheen: The United States now has a higher percentage of its people behind bars than any country on Earth.
Grayson Robinson: Just the number of people that are incarcerated in the United States is appalling. Its an embarrassment that we would put that many people into an incarceration environment.
Rick van Wickler: Some studies suggest up to 40% of the people who are incarcerated in America, they're not a threat to public safety, they're not a threat of flight. Why are they in jail?
Robert Francis: In Texas, we went from about an 84,000 bed prison system and built 250,000. Well all we did was fill the 250,000 beds, the crime rate stayed the same. We weren't making the society we live in, any better. We're simply jacking the taxpayer out of a whole lot more money.
Martin Sheen: There have been successful reforms on the state level that we could implement nation-wide.
Robert Francis: The crime rate in Texas dropped 8.45% The incarceration rate dropped 1.45%. The legislature was set to build two new prisons, so they were expecting to add 17,000 people. We didn't add those 17,000 people and then we lowered it enough that they closed a prison. We've saved 2 billion dollars. Thats B as in big, two billion, not million, two billion dollars which is huge in a state budget.
Martin Sheen: Its time for elected officials to focus on solutions like flexible sentencing guidelines. Our goal must be a justice system that avoids unnecessary incarceration and irresponsible spending. Tell Congress to pass the Smarter Sentencing Act.There may be small errors in this transcript.