judicial reform

Dialogue: Sentencing Reform

Aug 8, 2018

In a well-intentioned move to curb drug crime, lawmakers in the 1980’s and 1990’s implemented a raft of legislation that required judges to impose mandatory minimum sentences for some crimes. Today, those laws are under scrutiny as jail populations have soared in a generation. Recently there has been bipartisan support of a bill that would reform many of these changes, and it seems to have tentative support from President Trump.

In 2011, Kevin Sharp became a federal judge in Middle Tennessee. The position is supposed to be a lifetime appointment, but last year Sharp resigned.

He quit in protest of mandatory minimum prison sentences — measures he says contribute to prison overcrowding and violence. In this interview I speak to Sharp about mandatory minimum sentencing and why he felt he could do more off the bench than on it.