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"The people who cast the votes don't decide an election; the people who COUNT the votes do." -- Joseph Stalin

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It's About Time

Bill Introduced to End Mandatory Minimum Sentencing for Drug Offenses

The Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2009 (bill text) aims to repeal federal guidelines that force judges' hands in drug cases, and give power back to judges to determine sentences based on other elements of the case, not simply the weight of the drugs involved.

This legislation will refocus federal prosecutorial resources on major drug traffickers and eliminate racial disparities created by the mandatory minimum sentences for power and crack cocaine," said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), who authored the bill (her floor statement is available here).

African Americans make up 12 percent of the US population and 14 percent of drug users, but account for 30 percent of the federal prison population for drug users, according to a statistic presented in the bill.

In the 1980s, Congress passed two Anti-Drug Abuse Acts with the goal that federal prosecutors would go after major drug traffickers at the top of the food chain, instead of low-level drug offenders at the bottom," Waters continued. "Lengthy mandatory minimum sentences were passed for most drug crimes. These mandatory terms are based solely on the weight and the drug involved, and, with very few exceptions, the courts cannot sentence below them."

Twenty years later," she added, "mandatory drug sentences have utterly failed to achieve Congress' goals."


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