Tag: mandatory minimum sentencing

Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Federal Appellate Judge Andre Davis has penned an op-ed about mandatory minimum sentences.  Here’s an excerpt:

As a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, I learn of many personal narratives. Tony Gregg’s bears retelling.

Mr. Gregg was a user, a seller, a “snitch” for the FBI. His early life was marked by abuse and instability, suicide attempts, jails and prison stays. As a drug user, Mr. Gregg resorted to selling crack cocaine — not kilos, but several grams at a time out of a hotel room in a run-down section of Richmond, Va.

Not unexpectedly, he was arrested and convicted. A district judge sentenced Mr. Gregg to the mandatory term of life imprisonment, required by statute, at the discretion of the prosecutor, for a third conviction of a felony drug offense.

When Mr. Gregg’s case came before me and my colleagues on appeal, there was nothing we could do but uphold the sentence of life in prison. The appellate court, like the disapproving trial court, found its hands were tied.

I do not believe Mr. Gregg deserves life in prison — the kind of sentence often imposed on convicted murderers — but I am handicapped by mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, set by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986.

And Mr. Gregg’s is far from the only story that underscores the kind of handcuffing by mandatory minimums that U.S. judges habitually face.

After 25 years of watching countless Tony Greggs serve out impossibly long sentences for transgressions that would be better served by drug treatment and social safety nets, I say with certainty that mandatory minimums are unfair and unjust. They cost taxpayers too much money and make very little sense.

For more information, vist the FAMM web site.

 

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing

The U.S. Sentencing Commission is taking another look at mandatory minimum sentencing and Cato adjunct scholar, Erik Luna, offered his thoughts [pdf] to Commission members, along with other experts. 

The ACLU’s Jay Rorty blogged about what he said and witnessed at the hearing:

I told the commission the story of an ACLU client, Hamedah Hasan, who received a life sentence for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense under the most extenuating circumstances: she came to stay with her cousin in order to flee a physically abusive relationship, and the cousin roped her into running errands for his drug conspiracy. Despite her previously clean record, her sentencing judge found his hands tied by a combination of mandatory minimums for crack cocaine and the then-mandatory sentencing guidelines based on those minimums. Hamedah’s sentence has since been reduced from life to 27 years, but she still has 10 years left to go. Hamedah has three daughters and one granddaughter. She gave birth to her youngest child in prison, and because of the ripple effect of this sentencing structure, Hamedah’s children and grandchildren are growing up without her. The judge has publicly urged that her sentence be commuted (reduced) and the ACLU filed a petition three months ago asking President Obama to do so.

Another tragic story recounted today was that of Weldon Angelos, who was facing a sentence of 6-9 years for dealing marijuana — until the government added three gun charges carrying increasingly harsh minimums that the law requires to be “stacked,” that is, to be added on top of one another. Even though he never fired the gun or threatened anyone, the fact Weldon had the gun with him on several occasions was enough to increase his sentence to 55 years, in spite of his judge’s firm conviction that the sentence was unfairly severe. Listening to stories like this made me wonder how Congress could have let this state of affairs persist for so long and whether they will ever be serious about changing it.

For more information, go to the FAMM (Families Against Mandatory Minimums) web site.

Update: Woman sentenced to life imprisonment for kissing a 13-year old boy and placing his hand on her breast.