Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Sucks

So today on my blog I am going to be serious because I’m mad as hell and need to talk about the legal system in this country.

Mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses is the most asinine law on the books to date and does nothing but cause massive overcrowding of all prisons and shifts power away from judges and into the hands of prosecutors.

If you don’t know what this is here’s a quick overview:

Mandatory minimum sentencing laws are laws which force a judge to hand down a minimum prison sentence for certain crimes, such as drug possession. These mandatory minimum sentences are set for possession of a drug over a certain amount and are set by Congress, not judges. Judges cannot lower these sentences, even for extenuating circumstances that would otherwise lessen the punishment.

This proves to be the biggest problem with mandatory minimum sentencing. Originally, these laws were passed to ensure that certain criminals served long prison sentences; these laws are cruel and ineffective. They have pointed out that these laws often unfairly target low-level offenders while the worst offenders tend to evade the system.

The saddest part of this whole equation is that this disproportionately impacts people of color.

One Example:

Texas law assigns penalties based on the weight of certain types of drugs, dividing the drugs into penalty groups to determine the type of felony and punishment range.

In Texas, possessing less than 1 gram of cocaine is a state jail felony with up to 2 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Whereas possessing 1 – 4 grams is a 2nd degree felony with possible punishment of 2 – 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Under federal law, selling 28 grams of crack cocaine triggers a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years in prison, regardless of what a judge believes is a fair sentence.

One scenario;

  • 26 year old man with no criminal history:
  • College graduate
  • Given opioids by the truck load by doctors and coaches to be able to participate in athletics and “play through injuries”.
  • Young man graduates but is a full blown prescription med addict, how could he not be?
  • Can’t get prescriptions now so moves onto cheaper options to try and not be dope sick
  • Young man arrested in Idaho with just over 2 grams of whatever drug for personal use
  • Young man charged with drug trafficking and facing mandatory 3 years to life in prison based solely on amount of drug in his possession
    • The prosecutor does not have to prove this person was selling
    • The prosecutor does not care what circumstances led to the drug use
    • Wasn’t the intent to use mandatory minimums against “kingpins” and “middle-level dealers,” not the minor offenders to whom they have been applied

You can be certain that I will be standing in front of the legislature during the upcoming joint session to scream as loudly as possible about this idiotic law and try to change the incarceration of drug users who need treatment not prison.

If we spent the amount of money on treatment that we do on the incarceration of nonviolent low level drug offenders due to mandatory minimums the prisons in the United States wouldn’t be bursting at the seams.

Here are some articles or you can do a google search and find thousands or outcry’s for change

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/5-charts-show-mandatory-minimum-sentences-dont-work

https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/05/15/mandatory-minimum-sentences-are-cruel-and-ineffective-sessions-wants-them-back/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.20b23d66a7d1

https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/mandatory-minimum-sentencing-girlfriend-problem-757690/

 

Addiction and It’s Victims

My heart hurts today. A friends young daughter passed away yesterday of a drug overdose. The pain she is dealing with right now must be unbearable. I cannot even imagine if one of my children left this earth before me, honestly this is one of my greatest fears.

I have been around drug abuse most of my life and have seen the devastation it causes to the person using and the family and friends around them who love and care about them.

The question I have to ask is when and how do we stop this train wreck?

  • The pharmaceutic companies must have some consequence for creating highly addictive substances that have 8 million people in the United States hooked.
    • How do citizens fight this multi-billion dollar industry?
  • What about the doctors who prescribe these like candy, what’s their penance?
    • Certainly there are tracking mechanisms in place to catch doctors over prescribing
  • How about the dealers with no conscience who sell anything and everything for a quick buck?
    • Used to be a lot more difficult than it is today to get illegal drugs, every corner
  • How about the coaches who want athletes on the field at any cost?
    • Oh I know this begins in high school as I have seen it firsthand, college, NFL, your knee hurts here is a pain med.

I don’t pretend to have the answer but certainly as a society we at some point have to recognize that something has to give. Maybe instead of building new prisons maybe we should put our funding into treatment facilities. Yes the argument I am certain will be made that each person has a choice, but do they really once they are hooked. The mind and body aren’t fully developed until almost 30 and are now altered, how do you go back? I found some research from Daniel Amen which I found very interesting, if you have time take a look.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esPRsT-lmw8