Sometimes, an idea comes along that makes so much sense that even American politics can't get in the way.
Such an idea is a pending act of Congress that would make some humane, common-sense – and long-overdue – changes to the way those convicted of certain federal crimes are sentenced.
It’s called The First Step Act, and it has been painstakingly put together over a long process by Democrats and Republicans in Congress, with the support of many who do or did work in the judicial system and, as of last week, President Trump.
Quickly, before anything happens or anyone changes their minds, Congress should approve this measure and send it along to the president for his promised signature.
Among those doing the heavy lifting in this project have been Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Brent Tolman, once the U.S. Attorney for Utah.
Their motivations to work for change included the sad case of Weldon Angelos, a Utah record producer who was nabbed for some small-time drug dealing and, because he happened to be carrying a gun during one transaction, fell victim to a draconian minimum sentencing provision that even the judge in the case found offensive.
Angelos was sentenced to an outrageous 55 years in federal prison. But, thanks to some legal maneuvering that never was really explained to the public, he was released a couple of years ago after serving a still-ridiculous 12 years.
In an effort to make sure that there are no more such horrible examples of injustice in the name of justice, the First Step Act would do away with such mandatory minimum sentences, give judges more discretion in their decisions, end the disparity between the longer sentences given for dealing in crack cocaine as opposed to the power form and put an end to the disgraceful practice of keeping pregnant women in shackles.
This proposal is a case where principled liberals and principled conservatives can come together because each gains something and loses little.
Democrats like the idea of changing the system so that it no longer comes down so hard on the poor and minorities. Republicans see the value in both ending a waste of human potential and also spending a lot less money to imprison people who truly are not a significant risk to the public. And a lot of folks like the bill for both of those reasons.
One roadblock to the measure, the opposition of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, was removed when he was.
The only problem now is that, if the bill isn't approved in the current, now lame-duck, session of Congress, the process will have to start all over again next year. It might still pass, but trusting that so many stars will align again is not guaranteed.
Congress should do this. Now.