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February 20, 2019

"Mandatory Minimums, Crime, and Drug Abuse: Lessons Learned, Paths Ahead"

The title of this post is the title of this "Policy Brief" from The James Madison Institute authored by Greg Newburn and Sal Nuzzo.  I recommend the brief in full, and here is an excerpt from the final section of the paper titled "Lessons for the Future":

In the 1970s, frustrated with an intolerable crime wave and unprecedented drug abuse, New York, Michigan, and Florida tried a new solution.  Their theory was clear: harsh mandatory sentences would scare drug users into getting clean, deter would-be drug dealers from entering the trade, and incarcerate kingpins and major players who could not then continue to bring drugs into the state.  Leaders in each state were confident that their proposed solution would finally be the one that worked.

More than 40 years later, New York and Michigan recognized that the solution in which their leaders had such sincere confidence could no longer be justified by evidence, data, or experience, and repealed their mandatory minimum drug laws.  Those repeals were possible only after policymakers were honest about the failure of their solution to deliver on its promises.

In fact, dozens of states nationwide have reformed or repealed mandatory minimum laws over the past 15 years.  Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi all have exceptions to mandatory minimum drug trafficking laws.  Texas has never used mandatory minimum drug laws, and, like Florida, is currently enjoying a near 50-year crime low.  (Florida’s drug overdose death rate was 62 percent higher than Texas’ between 1999 and 2017.)  Louisiana repealed its mandatory minimum drug laws in 2017, with the support of the state’s prosecuting attorneys....

Florida, however, has so far refused to join the emerging consensus in favor of mandatory minimum drug law reform.  In spite of overwhelming evidence, Florida still clings to the same solution to drug abuse that has failed the state for 40 years, and continues to ignore the costly unintended consequences of its continued reliance on this failed strategy. Like New York and Michigan, attempts to reform Florida’s mandatory minimum drug laws are invariably met with dire predictions of doom and gloom, and Chicken Little-style warnings that without mandatory minimums Florida risks inviting 1970s-level crime once again.

February 20, 2019 at 05:13 PM | Permalink

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