What struck me about this story was the officers’ frustration that sentences are too light to persuade those arrested to turn informant:

Agents along the border had long been frustrated by what one ATF supervisor later called “toothless” laws that made it difficult to attack gun-trafficking networks. Straw buyers — people with no criminal record who purchase guns for criminals or illegal immigrants who can’t legally buy them — are subject to little more than paperwork violations. Even people convicted of buying AK-47s meant for the cartels typically just get probation for lying on a federal form attesting that they were buying the guns for themselves. With such a light penalty, it is hard to persuade those caught to turn informant against their bosses…

I’ve been watching the Canadian series ‘Intelligence’ recently.  It really drives home the extent to which the war on drugs, and the corruption and the violence that attend it, combined with our technological capabilities to spy and snoop like never before, have completely transformed how police work is undertaken.  I thought that proportionality was a basic tenet of justice- that severity of the sentence is related to the severity of the crime.  Since when should the severity of a sentence be correlated with its ability to blackmail a defendant into cooperation?

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