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November 14, 2011

NY Times editorial urges Congress to rescind all mandatory minimum sentences

I am pleased to see that this morning's New York Times includes this editorial discussing the US Sentencing Commissions's recent report on mandatory minimum sentences.   The piece is headlined "A Blue-Ribbon Indictment," and here are excerpts:

A 645-page report from the United States Sentencing Commission found that federal mandatory minimum sentences are often “excessively severe,” not “narrowly tailored to apply only to those offenders who warrant such punishment,” and not “applied consistently.”  That is especially so for sentences of people convicted of drug-trafficking offenses, who make up more than 75 percent of those given federal mandatory minimum sentences.

This is a powerful indictment from the commission, which has three Republicans and three Democrats and operates by consensus.  The report shows that harsh mandatory minimums have contributed to the near tripling of federal prisoners in the last 20 years, reaching 208,000 in 2009 and putting federal prisons 37 percent over capacity....

The racial disparities in sentencing are also stark.  In some cases, mandatory minimums can be reduced for offenders if the crime did not involve violence or a gun.  But most African-American drug offenders convicted of a crime carrying a mandatory minimum sentence could not meet these and other requirements: only 39 percent qualified for a reduction compared with 64 percent of whites.

The report notes that inequitable sentencing policies “may foster disrespect for and lack of confidence in the federal criminal justice system.”  Not “may.”  Given the well-documented unfairness, Congress needs to rescind all mandatory minimum sentences.

November 14, 2011 at 09:08 AM | Permalink


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. . . with continuing kudos to Julie Stewart of F.A.M.M.

Posted by: alan chaset | Nov 14, 2011 10:41:07 AM

Does the NY Times think that use of a gun or acts of violence are not relevant sentencing factors?

Posted by: Question? | Nov 14, 2011 11:02:58 AM

My son was given a 38 year sentence on hearsay evidence. These witnesses were given time off and some even money to say what the prosecutor wanted them to say.There were no guns or violence in any way,He left two sons and a daughter and his wife for a sentence that makes no sense at all.He lost his daughter when she was 18 years old in a car accident.She was 10 years old when he went to prison. She was counting the years for his return, when she was taken from us.He is 62 yrs. old has worked for Unicor almost all the sixteen years he has been in prison, has a very clean record, absolutely not a person that any one would send to prison. We have spent all we can, there is nothing that any attorney can do to get him home.I'M A CONCERNED CITIZEN - as well as his mother.
By-the-way, those witnesses walked out of the court house that day, a great disparity in sentencing which should be a crime within its self.We have a crazy mixed up judicial system.

Posted by: Rachel Alburtis | Nov 20, 2011 11:24:05 PM

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