The mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws require judges to hand down sentences based on type of drug, quantity of drug, and prior convictions while disallowing a judge to consider culpability, the offender’s actual role, motivation, and other mitigating circumstances.
If mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws haven’t decreased street crime there seems little purpose in the laws.
The U.S. Sentencing Commission and the Department of Justice have both concluded that mandatory sentencing fails to deter crime. Furthermore, mandatory minimums have worsened racial and gender disparities and have contributed greatly toward prison overcrowding. Mandatory minimum sentencing is costly and unjust. Mandatory sentencing does not eliminate sentencing disparities; instead it shifts decision-making authority from judges to prosecutors, who operate without accountability. Mandatory minimums fail to punish high-level dealers. Finally, mandatory sentences are responsible for sending record numbers of women and people of color to prison. ¹
FAMM states their vision as:
FAMM’s vision is a nation in which sentencing is individualized, humane, and sufficient but not greater than necessary to impose just punishment, secure public safety, and support successful rehabilitation and reentry.²
In her introduction of the bill, Maxine Waters said:
“This legislation will refocus federal prosecutorial resources on major drug traffickers and eliminate racial disparities created by the mandatory minimum sentences for powder and crack cocaine. “³
H.R. 1466, the Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2009
On March 12, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) introduced H.R. 1466, the “Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2009.’’ The bill would eliminate all mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses; curb federal prosecutions of low-level drug offenders; and allow courts to place offenders on probation or suspend their sentence.
In a speech to Congress, Rep. Waters cited “Correcting Course: Lessons from the 1970 Repeal of Mandatory Minimums,” FAMM’s 2008 report on how Congress first enacted mandatory drug sentences in the 1950s, then repealed them 20 years later because they failed to reduce drug trafficking.