Oversentenced? Perhaps

But hard time for repeat property offenders is neither cruel nor unusual

A Georgia judge may have gone overboard in sentencing a repeat “property” offender to life in prison without parole. And the Georgia Court of Appeals may have gone out of its way to say so.

But we thoroughly disagree with the notion that the case confirms that hard time for hardened property offenders is either cruel and unusual or a waste of taxpayer money.

Undreas Davis will have to be sentenced again in Douglas County to less than the 150 years without parole that he first got.

He may get substantially less – but largely because of a technicality, not because the court ruled his sentence “cruel and unusual.” It did not.

The Court of Appeals panel ruled that the cruel-and-unusual issue was not raised at the trial court level, and could not therefore be ruled upon by the appeals court.

But in an earlier ruling the judges made it apparent they considered Davis’ sentence cruel and unusual, and they ultimately found a way to overturn the sentence: They ruled that the trial judge erred by using Davis’ federal conviction to conclude he is a career criminal.

Basically, the prosecutors failed in their paperwork.

However the judges got there, the outcome was probably just: The life-with-no-parole seems a bit much in this case.

But we don’t agree with several Augusta attorneys who were quoted in a Chronicle story as saying nonviolent criminals don’t belong behind bars.

“We can’t afford it, and frankly we don’t have the room,” one said.

In many cases, particularly with first-time offenders, that may be true – and a new state law will reflect that, by going easier on property offenders and reserving most prison space for violent criminals.

Still, those who are properly adjudicated as career criminals – people who have victimized others time and time again, and show no signs of ever stopping – should be put away for very, very long times.

Undreas Davis may have been oversentenced, though it took a technicality to determine that. But the truth is, most property offenders traumatize their victims, often for life. And the unrepentant ones simply don’t belong on the streets of this country.

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