Too blunt for just outcomes: Why the US terrorism enhancement sentencing guidelines are unfair, unconstitutional and ineffective in the fight against terrorism

2018-03-16T12:28:15+00:00 March 17th, 2016|Conviction, Reports and Publications|
  • Reports


 

The focus of this report is on the sentencing guidelines that are used in cases involving Muslims. The report shows a number of examples of the widespread way in which the sentencing guidelines are being used in order to criminalise Muslims and indeed increase the fear and stigma surrounding terrorism within the Muslim community.

 

Background

 

Part of the history of the United States of America is the way that its judicial system has attempted to consistently provide justice to those that come before its purview. This history, however, is not devoid of its exceptions. Isolated communities over the years have fallen victim to gross miscarriages of justice, whether it was the Japanese-Americans during World War II or communists in a post-war world. There have been a number of occasions where the US justice system has allowed itself to fall victim to the politics of fear.

The most well known example of how a community has been systematically alienated from the judicial process is that of African-Americans. Through the work of individuals such as Sister Helen Prejean, there has been a great deal of documentation of the ways in which the community has been subjected to biased trials, procedural impropriety and disproportionate sentencing. Even today, discrimination against African-Americans continues as record numbers of black men are incarcerated and sentenced disproportionately.

With much focus on the illegality of the prison camps at Guantanamo Bay and the military commission process that is being used in order to try the detainees, there is very little scrutiny of the way in which Muslims are being treated within the US justice system. From a number of perspectives, Muslims have become the new ‘black’ and are being treated as a singular threat.

Although there are real areas of concern in relation to due process and procedural impropriety, the focus of this report is on the sentencing guidelines that are used in cases involving Muslims. Even where the convictions against a Muslim suspect bear only a very peripheral relation to terrorism, a terrorism enhancement is being applied which dramatically increases the number of years to be served by the defendant.

The report shows a number of examples of the widespread way in which the sentencing guidelines are being used in order to criminalise Muslims and indeed increase the fear and stigma surrounding terrorism within the Muslim community. Guantanamo may well be the symbol of arbitrary detention and removal of due process, however, the US mainland requires much work before it can lay claim to a fair, open and justice system for all.

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)