Listen to Science? Since When?

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Brooks Hudson, a PhD student in history at Southern Illinois University.

Every day, on television or doom-scrolling through Twitter, some Democratic Party official rails against Trump for ignoring “science” and putting the country at risk by his failure to “listen to the scientists.” It is true. Though, to be fair, Trump has never claimed to respect science or made any pretense that it would influence his policy decisions. Conversely, since the coronavirus outbreak, Biden has really hammered home the “public health” message. His campaign’s website, in a bullet point filler section, pledges that, if elected, the Biden administration will “ensure public health decisions are made by public health professions and not politicians.” Don’t take this seriously. 

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“Doubleplusungood” – NORML’s Prisoners of War on the Front Lines of Sentencing Reform

In the early nineties, a woman from Alabama, responding to a prisoner survey conducted by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) on behalf of her incarcerated husband mused, “…someday, [marijuana] will be legal. Maybe there will be a lot of non-violent people released from the Government and bac [sic] to their families.” The statement has proven remarkably prescient, as recent events surrounding both legalization and sentencing reform have shown. It is also clear that despite these promising new steps, obstacles and controversy remain.

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We’re getting there

On January 12, 2016, Wendell Callahan brutally murdered his ex-girlfriend and her two children in Columbus Ohio. The story in The Columbus Dispatch quickly informed readers that Callahan had “twice benefited” from retroactive reductions in federal sentencing guidelines. This was in reference to a 2014 decision by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, an independent commission in the judiciary, to first reduce federal sentences for non-violent drug offenses, and later under intense public pressure, to make these changes retroactive.

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