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March 10, 2000 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2000-03-10

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, March 10, 2000

be Aihigut Dilg

Mandatory minimums: Does the time fit the crime?

420 Maynard Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
daily.letters@umich.edu
Edited and managed by
students at the
University of Michigan

MIKE SPAHN
Editor in Chief
EMILY ACHENBAUM
Editorial Page Editor

Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the majority of the
Daily's editorial board. Allother articles, letters and cartoons do not necessarily
reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.

E vote

F ive and a half years ago, Kemba
Smith's life was taken away. At the
age of 23, she received a 24 and a half
year sentence for drug related charges.
But she never actually sold or used drugs.
The sentences for people convicted of
robbery, sexual assault, even voluntary
manslaughter are
often much
shorter than this.
Why on earthN
was KembaO
slapped in the
face with this
insane life-con-
suming time?
Because of
mandatory mini-r
mum sentencing.
Mandatory
minimums are Erin
pre-determined McQuinn
sentencing times
bracketed by theI
type and amount Words
of drugs that one
is convicted of
dealing with. Mandatory minimums are
laws that politicians support in order to
make them look "tough on crime:" Yeah,
that's really tough on crime when you send
a mother, beaten by her drug-dealing
boyfriend, to prison for 24 years. I'm sure
that really made a difference.
Kemba's story is a tragic one. It's even
more tragic because of the countless other
people who suffer from the unjust ruling
of mandatory minimums. Kemba was a
good kid in high school with an 8 p.m.

curfew. When she got to college, freed
from her parents' shelter, she met a guy
by the name of Peter Michael Hall. Peter
was at the time using an alias and posing
as an upperclassman at the university.
She, however, wouldn't discover these lies
until it was too late.
Peter beat her nearly dead on several
occasions, one time while she was pregnant
causing her to miscarry. She was a classic
sufferer of battered woman syndrome -
unable to leave her beater, and willing to do
any anything for him. She carried a gun in
her purse for him and filled other random
assisting roles. However she never did
drugs nor did she ever sell them.
When Peter suspected that federal
agents were on to him, he killed his friend
who he believed had been talking. He
then told Kemba to lie to the feds and
find out any possible information she
could about his case. Out of sheer fear for
her and her family's life, she complied.
In the end, Peter was found dead in his
apartment and Kemba was the only clear
link left to blame. Others involved in
Peter's four million-dollar drug ring had
already cut deals,but it was too late for
Kemba. Despite her, (in the words of the
federal prosecutor) "minor player" status,
she received a 24 and a half year sen-
tence, no parole.
Michigan and New York have the
stiffest laws regarding mandatory mini-
mum sentencing and drugs. Kemba is just
one among many men and women who
are currently serving ridiculously long
sentences for being "minor players" in
drug rings. With the mandatory mini-

Online voting is wave of the future

mums, your prior record doesn't matt
These sentencing guidelines are acros
the board pre-set standards.
Other major flaws in this legislation
(aside from tying the hands ofjudges) are
that they often only serve to catch these
"minor players." People who are really
involved in the drug business have lots of
friend's names that they can sell off to the
police in order to reduce their own sen-
tencing and get some sort of deal. But
those who are only mildly involved ha@
no such luxury. Or, in Kemba's case,
they're being so severely beaten that they
fear for their own lives.
It seems that Kemba's major mistake
was not cooperating, rather than her
assisting involvement in Hall's drug biz.
A girl who assisted Hall in the murder of
his friend made a deal and got no time.
So now, how must Kemba pay for this
mistake? By living her entire "outside"
lifetime, plus one and a half years
behind the bars of prison. By not bei*
able to raise her own son. Should a young
woman, exhibiting classic symptoms of
self-blame associated with the battered
woman syndrome be held to these sort of
time standards?
A young woman is serving 24 and a
half years in a federal prison because she
was a "minor player." All because of
these universal standards for crimes. I
thought our legal system was all abo
getting a fair trial. How can a trial be fair
and hand down the proper punishment if
the sentencing is already set?
-Erin McQuinn can be reached via
e-mail at emcquinn@umich.edu.
TENTAT'VELY SPEAING

hile the outcome of the Arizona
primary may seem insignificant,
the process certainly is not. In an effort
to modernize the election, Arizona
offered its citizens the opportunity to
vote in the world's first legally binding
online election. The operation was a
huge success, and the trend of online
voting shouldn't stop in Arizona. Other
states should follow Arizona's example
and encourage online primaries across
the nation.
The need for increased voter partici-
pation is clear. Since the 1960s, the
rate of Americans who cast their bal-
lots in major elections has been declin-
ing. Primaries especially have noticed
decreased participation with a 52 per-
cent participation decline in 1998
alone. Considering that the primaries
choose our presidential candidates,
such dramatic statistics are alarming.
The numbers point to the fact that our
democracy is not living up to its poten-
tial.
Regardless of the reason for this
lack of participation, online voting
offers a possibility for its reversal. It
greatly increases access to the political
process by giving citizens the opportu-
nity to cast their ballots wherever they
can use a computer. Often, potential
voters are unable to vote because they
cannot leave work, are unable to find
someone to look after their children or
simply don't have a ride to the polling
site. The advent of online voting will
permit voters to voice their opinion
from the privacy of their homes. This

improved access should lead to greater
voter participation. The Arizona prima-
ry suggests that this is the case. With
the new online voting, the state
received more than double the number
of requests for early voting this year
than in 1996.
Online voting is especially impor-
tant to University students. It may sig-
nificantly increase the power of the
student vote by offering an attractive
alternative to traditional polls. It is par-
ticularly important considering the low
voter turnout by students in the past.
While online voting should be
expanded to offer greater access to the
political process, it should not do so at
the expense of traditional polling sites.
These stations offer crucial access to
those who may not be able to get to a
computer. They are key outlets for the
voices of groups; such as minorities
and the poor, who tend to have less
access to the Internet. We must make
sure not to leave these groups behind
when we bridge the gap to the 21st
Century.
Other states should follow Arizona's
lead and phase in e-voting. In an ideal
world, voter turnout in elections would
be 100 percent. Although this may
never be possible, online voting is a
step towards realizing the full potential
of democracy in the United States.
With major states such as California,
Louisiana and Washington already
moving in that direction, not only does
such a transition seem productive, it
looks likely as well.

THOMAS KULJURGIS

STUD~Y TIP-,.

Gay marriages
should be legal

ALWAYS

G;T PLENTY' OF REST B ETFORnAN EC(M.. .

School rule
Church and state should stay separated

The battle over the permissibility of
prayer in public schools will again
be heading to the Supreme Court later
this month when the Justices are sched-
uled to hear a case being brought by
the school board of Santa Fe, Texas.
That school district is seeking to legal-
ize student led prayers at school func-
tions such as graduations and sporting
events by having recent rulings against
them by the Fifth Circuit Court of
Appeals, which the school district has
defied by continuing to hold prayers at
school events, overturned. Their
r actions are an attack on the rights of
every student who is not part of the
religious majority and are clearly
unconstitutional.
Also, now that the school board's
case is before the Supreme Court,
Santa Fe's assault on religious freedom
effects not just its own students, but the
entire nation. The intransigence of one
Texas town could soon lead to the
return of school sponsored prayer
across the United States.
It is important to remember that
prayer by students has always been
allowed as long as it is not organized
by their school. Those students who
' wish to pray in school have every right
to do so on their own. But school orga-
nized prayer, even when led by stu-
dents, inevitably subjects some to
religious beliefs they do not share. This
practice needlessly alienates these stu-
dents and violates their religious liber-
ty.
The reason for the institution of stu-
dent lead prayers was to circumvent
earlier Supreme Court rulings barring
school officials or clergy from leading
them, but the effect is the same. Stu-
dents who do not share the religious
beliefs of those offering the prayers are
k still made to feel like outsiders in their
own schools.

What the Santa Fe school board does
not seem to realize is that they are
opening the door to religious discrimi-
nation against those who share their
beliefs in any area where they do not
constitute the majority. The Santa Fe
public school's practice of offering
Southern Baptist prayers at school
events was originally challenged by a
Mormon family and a Catholic family.
Southern Baptists are obviously not the
majority religion everywhere in the
United States and if the school board
gets its way, they will be subjecting
many Southern Baptists to Catholic,
Mormon and innumerable other invoca-
tions they would undoubtedly find
objectionable.
Everyone is better off when prayer
in schools is left to individuals. There
is no way any prayer, no matter how
nonsectarian, will be acceptable to
every student in a given school and stu-
dents suffer no harm by carrying out
any religious observances they feel are
necessary on their own.
The effect of organized prayer in
schools, where there is always a diver-
sity of religious faiths, is proselytizing
to a captive audience. Students cannot
very well avoid their graduations and
while they can obviously skip football
games, why should they have to? It is
completely unnecessary for anyone to
feel excluded from their school's events
for religious reasons. Nothing is
detracted from these events by not
demanding everyone say the same
prayer at the same time.
The right of each person to their
own beliefs is the most important free-
dom Americans have and pushing par-
ticular religious doctrines on children
when they and their families may not
agree with them is a deplorable prac-
tice that is ultimately dangerous to
everyone's religious freedom.

To THE DAILY:
On the primary election day known as
Super Tuesday, California became the
31 st state of the Union to deny gay mar-
riage as a legal institution. While it has
been a shock and a slap in the face to the
gay and lesbian community, the proposal
which denied gays and lesbians legal
marriage in California also confirms that
the struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equali-
ty in this country is far from over.
There were many ads for and against
the proposal in California. The pro-mar-
riage spots Usually featured celebrities
trying to make light of the situation
while gaining support for the right to
marry. The ads aimed at denying gay
marriages were filled with passive hate.
One radio ad featured a woman stating
that gay and lesbian fear that this pro-
posal was designed to smear them was
unfounded. The woman went on to con-
fide that her sister was, in fact, a lesbian.
Finally, this woman said that she simply
wanted her children to know that mar-
riage is a sacred vow reserved for a man
and a woman. The religious right now
accepts that gays and lesbians have a
right to choose their own lifestyle, but
refuses to let them legalize their union
- gays and lesbians are, in effect', sepa-
rate but equal. In other words, individual
morality is at large once again in a gov-
ernment that is supposed to uphold "lib-
erty and justice for all."
"All" in our Pledge of Allegiance
must include gays and lesbians. This
country must come to terms with the
truth: Gays and lesbians, no matter how
different, disgusting, unnatural, or un-
holy they may seem to religious conserv-
atives, must be afforded the same rights
as any person who contributes to this
society. Gays and lesbians pay taxes.
Gays and lesbians invest in the economy.
They are not going away, they should not
have to change who they are - regard-
less of whether or not one believes that
they choose to be that way. It is time to
remove religion or individual morality

y- ,
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,:- ; ' -
t. !, ,,
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r

from the picture when deciding whether
to grant gays and lesbians the financial
and social rights given to every hetero-
sexual couple in this country.
The campaign in California and across
the country to invalidate the existence of
the gay and lesbian community by deny-
ing them legal marriage is a campaign of
fear and hate. Regardless of how you
dress it - the woman who loves her les-
bian sister but wants her children to know
that lesbians can never be joined in the
eyes of God - denying gays and lesbians
the right of marriage is unconstitutional.
All men and women are created equal
in this country, regardless of race, creed,
religion, disability or sexual orientation.
This is also a republic of choice. Gays
and lesbians have been denied their
choice to dignify their loving, lasting
relationships with a legally recognized
marriage. Let us all join Sen. Trent Lott,
Rev. Pat Robertson, Rev. Jerry Falwell,
and the religious conservatives in a self-
congratulatory sigh and "Amen." Their
victory fuels prejudice against people
with opposing beliefs and moral values.
Whichever way they dress their hate, the
conservative triumph in California is a
step backwards for this entire nation.
ADAM LEVI
MUSIC JUNIOR

Athletes aren't sole
representatives of
University
TO THE DAILY:
After reading the article in the March 8
Daily concerning Michigamua's attempt t
reach out to the student body, I became
appalled by Nick Delgado's comment con-
cerning athletes. He said, "The athletes are
the heart of Michigan. They have the pas-
sion, they feel the spirit of Michigan. They
embody it." I find his statement absurd.
Although student athletes provide us with
some national publicity, this does not give
them the right to claim that they play an
indispensable role within the University.
The heart Michigan consists of students,
faculty, administration and finally athletes
Delgado's fellow Michigamua member and
athlete Matt Michalski states, in the same
article, "it's very hard to stay up on cam-
pus events." How can one so far removed
from student life claim to embody the Uni-
versity? Thousands of outstanding students
apply and attend this University each year
for academic pursuits not athletics.
PAUL OCOBOC
LSA JUNIO

4

i1~ !4 fl f . --'jr-. ! a rr-1/ r/ r ! (rfr r /

SCC continues to fight for 'equality and justice'

For the benefit of the University and
Ann Arbor communities, the Michigan
Union tower has been liberated. Over the
past 33 days the once exclusive space
held by three secret societies at the Uni-
versity has been opened for public view-
ing through educational tours and
national media exposure. Unfortunately,
the message conveyed by the University
to its students, faculty, staff and to the
world regarding the contents of the space
has revealed some very ugly and com-
plex truths about University principles
and values.
The current class of Michigamua has
grown out of a 98-year old tradition of
exploiting images, objects, practices and
ideologies that promote negative stereo-
types and create a hostile environment
for Native Americans. Michigamua's his-
tory at the University has been fertilized
by direct institutional involvement with
th nr-nimainon an naministrative

all students through the Code of Student
Conduct.
It is our responsibility as equal own-
ers of this public institution to evaluate
the meaning and reality of University
support of organizations such as
Michigamua. The three secret societies
of the Union tower enjoy unique relation-
ships with the University and have been
given privilege and influence unlike any
other student organization. The effects of
Michigamua and the other tower societies
are direct for each member of the Univer-
sity community. A threat and compro-
mise to any one culture or ethnic group is
a challenge and remark to the rights of
all students and cultures encompassed
within the University.
This University's response to the con-
tinued existence and practices of
Michigamua has been one of ambiva-
lence at best. Perhaps University Presi-
dent Lee Rollinger made an accurate

Indeed, the illusion of neutrality has been
used to cloud the vision of the University
community and define the beliefs of
Bollinger as legal and moral truths.
It has been in this condescending and
patriarchal manner that Bollinger ha
addressed the University community and
has dictated a justification of institution-
al support of racist practices and ideolo-
gies by citing First Amendment and free
speech rights. This assumption, that
Michigamua's actions and beliefs
towards Native Americans can be pro-
tected and not limited, demands to be
challenged by all members of the Uni-
versity community. For in reality, as i
true for American society, the University
of Michigan has never been host to a
neutral environment. The weights of
recognition, power and influence side.
heavily with members of organizations
and privileged groups such as Michiga-
mua and their alumni. while those out-

A 0r~i~ r~ nI ii

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