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How mandatory minimums helped drive mass incarceration


Barack Obama recently became the first sitting
president to ever visit one of these: a federal prison. And the president used the occasion to call
out a particularly poorly designed policy at the heart of our criminal justice system. Mandatory minimums require judges to hand
out specific sentences for certain crimes deemed uniquely harmful to society. So under federal law, using, say, a chemical
weapon to kill someone automatically gets you life in prison. Or, and this is true, tampering with a telegraph
line will get you five years Federal minimums are supplemented by state
laws. Louisiana, for instance, requires a four year
prison sentence for LSD possession. But the species of minimums now being singled
out for reform were birthed at the height of the drug war in the mid-80s. In 1986, congress passed a sprawling anti-drug
criminal justice bill, a central feature of which was a mandatory sentencing disparity
punishing crack violations much more harshly than those for powder cocaine. That difference has had catastrophically racially
disparate effects. These effects have prompted critics to decry
excessive crack minimums as purely the products of reagan-era white supremacy But that narrative is ever so slightly complicated
by this: Congressman Rangel, along with much of the
black political leadership, was a key advocate for erecting these laws in the first place. This minimum sentencing regime has proven
to provide a grotesque case study in unintended consequences There are thousands of stories just like this Someone gets snapped up on a low-level, nonviolent
drug offense. And the presiding judge is forced to apply
a devastating arithmetic in which minor violations exponentially add up to a gigantic prison
term. fortunately, the notion that harsh minimums
could seriously dampen the drug trade has collapsed in light of the manifest failures
of the drug war. And that’s opened up political space for serious
bipartisan reform And the few remaining defenders of the status
quo have been left to regurgitate magnificently unpersuasive talking points like this

Stephen Childs

68 Comments

  1. Why the fuck to they feel the need to do drugs in the first place? Just live clean. Don't blame the law for punishing destructive behaviors.

  2. The spiraling out of control the War on Drugs has created is going to be devastating for a while to come. Can't imagine serving 55 years for a drug offense, geez. We have been targeting the supply (even though there will always be more producers so long as the demand is high). Sad and completely backwards in my opinion.

  3. 25% of the worlds prison population lives in the US. Mandatory Minimums say to our judicial system and judges that we don't trust their judgement, that we don't trust judges to look upon the sentencing of their colleagues and deliver a fair sentence. Why are mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenders often just as bad or sometimes even worse than the mandatory minimums for rapists or people who do domestic violence? We seriously need criminal justice reform, and repealing mandatory minimums would be a great start.

    Source for first sentence: https://www.aclu.org/prison-crisis

  4. one year per gram depending on the class and purity of the drug maybe?
    6 months per gram. I don't know. I nothing about drugs =)

  5. it's for profit prisons that are the problem but you will never hear the president blame the prisons because he is supposed to be in charge of those.

  6. Wow, it's like you were attempting to show us that assaulting a U.S. serviceman and having to go to prison for 6 months is a bad thing.

  7. This is not an accident, it is a deliberate and systematic program to destroy society, segmenting it and handle it in more effectively, according to the interests of a small group of oligarchs

  8. Mandatory minimums, especially if they're high, are a boon to society. Prisons are, at their essence, holding bins for undesirables. Nobody wants (meaning the good, honest, hard-working people) these people in our society, so they're removed. It's good for everybody except the criminals, and we don't care about their opinions.

  9. lol. try to traffic drugs in singapore. death sentence straight. only cost a rope though.

  10. "Or, and this is true… <insert trivia>"
    What, you didn't feel the affirmation of truth was applicable for anything else you said?

  11. mandatory minimums destroy the balance of power between the three branches. The Supreme Court needs to be able to decide the punishments, not the congress

  12. People offer me coke often. I almost always turn it down. If someone offers me some crack(hasn't happened in over 15 years), I can't help myself. It is fantastic when used in moderation. If you can use it without becoming addicted it is truly magical.

  13. 55 years?? The U.S. life expectancy for males is around 70-80 years. That's more than HALF their entire life! Well shit.

  14. "The law forced me to do it" that isn't an argument, that is a logical fallacy called Appeal to Authority.

    To obey immoral and unjust laws is immoral and unjust.

  15. I really, really hate the narration in this video. Nasal guy shouting in a small room recorded on a phone… What the hell Vox? You're capable of decent production quality what is this.

  16. Richard Wershe is 28 years into a life sentence for a non-violent drug offense which occurred when he was a minor (17 years old). Rick was arrested for doing what a drug task force had previously encouraged and paid him to do starting when he was just 14 years old. Why should Rick have to spend another day behind bars for the mistakes he made as a kid??"In May 1987, when he was 17, Wershe was charged with possession with intent to deliver eight kilos of cocaine, which police had found stashed near his house following a traffic stop. He had the misfortune of being convicted and sentenced under one of the harshest drug statutes ever conceived in the United States, Michigan’s so-called 650 Lifer law, a 1978 act that mandated an automatic prison term of life without parole for the possession of 650 grams or more of cocaine. (The average time served for murder in state prisons in the 1980s was less than 10 years.)Sentencing juvenile offenders to life without parole for non-homicide crimes was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010, by which point such sentences were already exceedingly rare; the court was able to locate only 129 inmates serving them nationwide. Michigan eventually acknowledged the failures of the 650 Lifer statute—the governor who signed it into law, William G. Milliken, has called it the greatest mistake of his career—and rolled it back in 1998. Those already serving time became parole eligible and began to be released. Wershe is the only person sentenced under the old law who is still in prison for a crime committed as a juvenile. Prominent and violent kingpins and enforcers from Wershe’s day in Detroit have long since been freed. And yet Wershe has remained incarcerated, for more than 27 years." – From 'The Trials of White Boy Rick' by Evan Hughes.

  17. "Richard John Wershe Jr. is a political prisoner in America. The political component of his ordeal is local, it’s harsh and it’s vindictive.Wershe, who grew up in Detroit, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for a non-violent drug crime committed when he was 17. The law was eventually changed to allow parole but that hasn’t made a difference for Wershe. He is Michigan’s last remaining juvenile non-violent drug offender, still behind bars after 27 years. Wershe, who has been described by a prison official as a near-model prisoner, was never charged with any drug-related violence, he was never charged with ordering any drug violence, he never operated crack houses, he was never charged with conspiracy because he never had a gang, he was never named as an unindicted co-conspirator in any narcotics case and he was never called as a witness in any drug trials. Yet, he’s been labeled a drug lord and kingpin." – http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/11/29/is-cocaine-legend-white-boy-rick-serving-life-for-busting-crooked-cops.html

  18. work the suckers for dimes for big fat profits, 2016 version of the slavery days on the plantation,runnings for mugs

  19. goes to show you have no rights in this country… your life can be taken from you, you can be incarcerated whenever the government sees fit, and most of your constitutional rights have been reversed and nullified by other laws… we have no rights… only privileges

  20. Oh sure, let's give a guy 55 years for a non-violent crime. But rape?

    Nah, 6 months is enough.

    WTF

  21. no jobs, no opportunities, no nothing in the ghettoData Show Racial Disparity in Crack Sentencing | US Newshttps://www.usnews.com/news/articles/…/data-show-racial-disparity-in-crack-sentencin…Cached

  22. my boyfriend does not deserve to do a extreme sentence but he will be sentenced Thursday and I am so lost at how I am going to have to lose such long unnecessary time that we could be together. he knows he has made a bad mistake n yes punish but don't take his and my life away I'll do part of his sentence if he ever did anything like it again. I would sign my name with him n do the exact sentence in a prison if he does wrong again. I truly believe he would be fine on a probation and house arrest w only a real job being reason for going anywhere except home and to his po . n he is. a good man being wasted away if they destroy our lives w extreme time. I need him to help me live n I need my soulmate I pray some miracle happens that I will get to be with him . if he were a rapist or murderer then yes no chances on a house arrest program. but he is only done a lil dope . and he has been gone 7 months now I have to be able to love him. n he love me I don't think u should only b doomed to a prison on the first fed offence . now deliberately doing it after that yes I'd see prison but God I want him home we are so stressed n I wanted to b w my man

  23. Be skeptical of the left-wing talking point that the prisons are overflowing with low-level drug offenders. Drug offenses make up only 16% of state prisoners. They make up 48% of federal prisoners, but this is only about 100,000 people, and these are drug traffickers, not low-level users. Release all drug offenders and America still has a huge prison population. According to a BJS study, crack cocaine offenders were most likely to have extensive criminal histories (40%), used a weapon (32%), and received longer prison terms. Regarding mandatory minimums in general, wasn't it at about the time they started passing these that violent crime in this country began a long steady decline?

  24. The only reason I like mandatory minimums is it means that women get the same time as guys. When women gets a slap on the wrist for a crime, when a guy does the same crime he gets 4 years.

  25. Why don't these "mandatory minimums" apply to those corrupt criminals on Wall Street???

  26. Um, no, it's the idiotic morons that immerse themselves in criminal activity that drive mass incarceration. Don't blame the minimums.

  27. "carrying a gun" during committing a crime is a "minor offense" according to these nut cases

  28. these criminals are mostly from single mothers. Planned Parenthood has the right idea to kill them all in the womb.

  29. How dare you try to flip the blame on the Black leadership. Yes, there is a need for accountability on their part. BUT THE BLAME, THE GUILT AND RESPONSIBILITY is on those of the THE WHITE GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS! Let us not play dumb or stupid about "who" was responsible for locking up these Black and Brown bodies!

  30. Dear black people,

    Please stop blaming others for your poor life choices and stop commiting crime in record numbers.

    The End,
    Logic and Reasoning

  31. Gotta love Democrats— they care so much about blacks. And they throw their votes for them 95% of the time. How does that really work out?

  32. Tough on crime
    aka, a politician or a district attorney up for election who knows putting on this image of being "touch on criminals" will appeal to voters, regardless of the fact it ironically traps more people in a cycle of crime and wastes untold taxpayer dollars

  33. Homeless man just released from a 25 year drug sentence for dealing meth.

  34. Upgrading and completing the barrier at our southern border would reduce the amount of drugs on the streets.

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