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Criminal Justice & Legal System

West Michigan federal judge knocks mandatory minimum sentences

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Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio
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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - A federal judge in Grand Rapids is speaking on behalf of judges across the country as Congress considers whether to ease up on mandatory minimum sentences.

Robert Holmes Bell is chairman of the criminal law committee of the U.S. Judicial Conference. In a letter this week to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Bell says mandatory minimum sentences in federal court waste tax dollars and produce "unjust results."

Bell points to drug cases where the penalty is driven by the type and amount of drugs, not the personal characteristics of the offender. He notes that the number of mandatory minimum penalties for certain crimes has doubled to about 200 since 1991.

Bell has been a federal judge in western Michigan since 1987.