The changes we see in society are like waves crashing on a beach. The water advances and then retreats. The crash is sudden and the churn obscures the seabed before settling. We have sudden advances in fairness and opportunity that makes people wonder why it was ever any different, while other long-held rights and freedoms we took for granted seem to be slipping away.
Who would have thought that we would advance from acceptance of gays on prime time TV shows to the point of legalizing gay marriage in such a short period of time? Now it seems so normal, one wonders why there was ever any controversy. The same goes for racial and gender equalities. Who'd have thought 20 years ago that America would elect a black president, and could easily elect a woman president as well? Sure there are the Donald Sterlings here and there, but they are dying away, and a younger generation is being raised in a world where the idea that one entire group of people is inferior to one's own simply based on skin color or innate sexual preference is an almost absurd notion.
As the taboos fade, so too do the notions that laws should enforce antiquated societal "moralities" that are based not on natural rights, but on superstition and false prejudice disguised as fact. Just like gay marriage, the states are taking the lead on decriminalizing pot possession and usage. It's only a matter of time before the idea that a plant which grows wild should be considered illegal is looked back on in the same way we see movies like "Reefer Madness" as the true madness. In the meantime, there is a strong push to make possession of the plant a simple violation, not one that sends the possessor to prison. That just makes sense - why fill jails with people who are no danger to society?
The question then becomes - what to do with those jailed because of those antiquated laws? Is it fair that an otherwise law-abiding citizen should rot in jail for possessing a plant that no longer incurs such a punishment? It certainly seems unfair to most people, including President Obama. He is planning on using his executive power to grant clemency to those previously convicted under much more severe penalties
Thousands and thousands of people like Scrivner are serving punishingly long sentences in federal prison based on draconian policies that were a relic of the "tough on crime" antidrug laws of the '80s and '90s. Thirty years after skyrocketing urban violence and drug use sparked politicians to impose longer and longer sentences for drug crimes, America now incarcerates a higher rate of its population than any other country in the world. This dubious record has finally provoked a bipartisan backlash against such stiff penalties. The old laws are slowly being repealed.
Now, in his final years in office, Obama has trained his sights on prisoners like Scrivner, and wants to use his previously dormant pardon power as part of a larger strategy to restore fairness to the criminal-justice system. A senior administration official tells Yahoo News the president could grant clemency to "hundreds, perhaps thousands" of people locked up for nonviolent drug crimes by the time he leaves office — a stunning number that hasn't been seen since Gerald Ford extended amnesty to Vietnam draft dodgers in the 1970s.
It seems to me that it should be automatic for anyone's prison term for any crime be adjusted down to the current level for the same offense committed today as society becomes more enlightened. It seems barbaric to do anything less.