8.30.16 | Nora Caplan-Bricker
Brock Turner, the former Stanford swimmer who was sentenced to six months in prison for raping an unconscious woman, is scheduled to be released for good behavior on Friday, after serving half his allotted jail time. There’s a bit of poetic justice, then, in the fact that California state legislators passed a bill on Monday that would institute a three-year mandatory minimum sentence for anyone convicted of penetrating an intoxicated or unconscious person.
One could see this as a sign that stopping rape is finally where it belongs on the liberal agenda. There's just one problem: The same is true of repealing mandatory minimum sentencing laws—which, after helping create our present era of mass incarceration, have become a rare and promising point of bipartisan convergence. Not for the first time in the case of Brock Turner, progressives have allowed one righteous cause to eclipse another. In June, liberals across the country, appalled by Turner’s lenient sentence, clamored for the impeachment of the judge who imposed it. (Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky ultimately put in for a transfer to civil court earlier this month.) As Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern wrote trenchantly at the time, we should fear “the willingness among a certain faction of the American left to jettison progressive principles in a good-hearted but profoundly misguided effort to stop sexual violence.”