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Bill to Eliminate Federal Drug Mandatory Minimums

Via TalkLeft
Rep. Maxine Waters has introduced H. R. 1466: Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2009

To concentrate Federal resources aimed at the prosecution of drug offenses on those offenses that are major.

Some great statements made in the bill language:

(1) Since the enactment of mandatory minimum sentencing for drug users, the Federal Bureau of Prisons budget increased from $220 million in 1986 to $5.4 billion in 2008.
(2) Mandatory minimum sentences are statutorily prescribed terms of imprisonment that automatically attach upon conviction of certain criminal conduct, usually pertaining to drug or firearm offenses. Absent very narrow criteria for relief, a sentencing judge is powerless to mandate a term of imprisonment below the mandatory minimum. Mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses rely solely upon the weight of the substance as a proxy for the degree of involvement of a defendant‰s role.
(3) Mandatory minimum sentences have consistently been shown to have a disproportionate impact on African Americans. The United States Sentencing Commission, in a 15-year overview of the Federal sentencing system, concluded that ëmandatory penalty statutes are used inconsistently‰ and disproportionately affect African American defendants. As a result, African American drug defendants are 20 percent more likely to be sentenced to prison than white drug defendants. […]
(5) Between 1994 and 2003, the average time served by African Americans for a drug offense increased by 62 percent, compared with a 17 percent increase among white drug defendants. Much of this disparity is attributable to the severe penalties associated with crack cocaine.
(6) African Americans, on average, now serve almost as much time in Federal prison for a drug offense (58.7 months) as whites do for a violent offense (61.7 months).
(7) Linking drug quantity with punishment severity has had a particularly profound impact on women, who are more likely to play peripheral roles in a drug enterprise than men. However, because prosecutors can attach drug quantities to an individual regardless of the level of culpability of a defendant‰s participation in the charged offense, women have been exposed to increasingly punitive sentences to incarceration. […]
(9) Low-level and mid-level drug offenders can be adequately prosecuted by the States and punished or supervised in treatment as appropriate.
(10) Federal drug enforcement resources are not being properly focused, as only 12.8 percent of powder cocaine prosecutions and 8.4 percent of crack cocaine prosecutions were brought against high-level traffickers, according to the Report to Congress: Cocaine and Federal Sentencing Policy, issued May, 2007 by the United States Sentencing Commission. […]
(12) The Departments of Justice, Treasury, and Homeland Security are the agencies with the greatest capacity to investigate, prosecute and dismantle the highest level of drug trafficking organizations, and investigations and prosecutions of low-level offenders divert Federal personnel and resources from the prosecution of the highest-level traffickers, for which such agencies are best suited.[…]
(14) One consequence of the improper focus of Federal cocaine prosecutions has been that the overwhelming majority of low-level offenders subject to the heightened crack cocaine penalties are black and according to the Report to Congress only 8.8 percent of Federal crack cocaine convictions were imposed on whites, while 81.8 percent and 8.4 percent were imposed on blacks and Hispanics, respectively […]
(18) According to the Justice Department, the time spent in prison does not affect recidivism rates.

The bill also expressly requires the approval of the Attorney General to prosecute a case where the quantity of drugs is not major (in the case of cocaine, less than 500 grams), leaving small cases to the states.
This looks like a good bill, that could reasonably get some political traction as it essentially comes across as saving money by going after the big guys.

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