If a person is convicted of possessing with the intent to deliver 280 grams of crack cocaine, they will spend a minimum of 10 years in prison. It does not matter if it was your first offense, whether that person was a minor participant in a large drug conspiracy, or whether no violence was involved. Even if the judge does not believe the person deserves it, he has no choice. Congress has imposed this mandatory minimum sentence for this drug, and many others including, heroin, marijuana, powder cocaine, and methamphetamine.
Mandatory minimum prison sentences by many are though to be the worst part of our criminal justice system. They completely take away the discretion of a judge who’s job is to ensure every person gets a sentence that is individualized to them. Mandatory minimum sentences are proven to discriminate against minorities and are the single biggest factor into the uncontrollable increase of our federal prison population. Many persons convicted of offenses that carry mandatory minimums are first time, non violent offenders who, otherwise, do not deserve these long penalties. Nether do their families.
1 in 27 children in this country have a parent in prison. 1 in 9 African American children have a parent in prison. These facts might be the most painful and shameful facts that blemish our criminal justice system.
Congress is finally taking more action to reduce these atrocities. Senate Bill 2123, sponsored by senator xxx calls for what has been called the most significant criminal justice reform in a generation. It will significantly eliminate and reduce mandatory minimum sentences
- Provide retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA), which could allow 5,826 offenders currently in prison to receive an approximate 20 percent reduction in sentence.
- Permit certain offenders who are currently subject to the 10-year mandatory minimum penalty to be subject to the 5-year mandatory minimum instead, which would reduce the sentence of 550 offenders annually by approximately 19.3 percent.
- Broaden the safety valve to provide greater relief to more low-level, non-violent offenders, which would reduce the sentence of 3,314 offenders annually by nearly 20 percent and save 1,593 federal prison beds within 5 years of enactment.
- Reduce mandatory minimum penalties for recidivist drug offenders with prior drug felony convictions from 20 years to 15 years, and reducing the mandatory life imprisonment penalty
For certain offenders to 25 years while both narrowing and expanding the types of prior offenses that could trigger a mandatory minimum.
- Reduce the mandatory minimum sentencing enhancement for using a firearm in the commission of a violent crime or drug offense from 25 years to 15 years, and narrow the circumstances in which multiple sentencing enhancements apply, which would reduce the sentence of 62 offenders annually by 30.4 percent.
- Reduces the mandatory minimum penalty under the Armed Career Criminal Act from 15 to 10 years, which would reduce the sentence of 277 offenders each year by approximately 21.6 percent. The bill would apply this provision retroactively, which, if granted, could result in a sentence reduction for 2,317 offender currently in federal prison.
On October 22, 2015 the Senate Judiciary Committee recommended the bill to the full Senate. The United States Sentencing Commission, the body who writes and reviews the federal sentencing guidelines, and the Justice Department both recommend the adoption of the bill. President Obama has already stated that once this bill gets to his desk, he will sign and make it law. He hoped it would be before the first of the year.
It is a bipartisan bill so its chances of success are high. When it passes, the federal prison population will be reduced, and federal sentencing will take a positive step forward to becoming more fair and less discriminatory especially as it relates to first time and non violent offenders.