September 19, 2013 by David K. Sutton
Prison-Industrial Complex Watch: End Mandatory Minimum Sentences For Non-Violent Drug Offenses
It’s time for Americans to pay attention to what we are doing to so many non-violent drug offenders. We put them in jail, take away their right to vote when they get out, in many cases for minor offenses, that probably shouldn’t be illegal in the first place. Americans need to see the forest for the trees when it comes to U.S. drug laws. Why is it so hard to change failed policy?
And this is one issue that does not have a clear partisan divide. Sure, conservatives tend to be the “tough on crime” crowd, but they are also supposed to be the “get government out of our lives” crowd as well. And then there is the libertarian sect of the conservative confluence, who are most likely to align with liberals on issues like this. Liberals and libertarians might come to the same conclusion on drug policy via very different paths, but we should embrace our common goal. And so I agree with Senator Rand Paul’s testimony before a Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday.
Rand Paul: ‘I Am Here To Ask That We Begin The End Of Mandatory Minimum Sentencing’ – Forbes: “If I told you that one out of three African-American males is [prohibited] by law from voting, you might think I was talking about Jim Crow, 50 years ago. Yet today a third of African-American males are still prevented from voting because of the war on drugs. The war on drugs has disproportionately affected young black males. The ACLU reports that blacks are four to five times more likely to be convicted for drug possession, although surveys indicate that blacks and whites use drugs at about the same rate. The majority of illegal drug users and dealers nationwide are white, but three-fourths of the people in prison for drug offenses are African American or Latino.”
Americans want so badly to deal with a perceived drug problem they are blind to all the additional problems the War on Drugs has created. There are millions of people who are considered second-class citizens. Because they spent time in jail, they are no longer allowed to vote. What’s the connection between incarceration and voting? First, if you’ve done your time, you should not exit prison with a limited set of rights. Second, if you were going to limit rights, why voting? Could it be that our prisons disproportionately incarcerate young black males? And well, you know, we have a history of suppressing the black vote in America. I’m just spitballing here.
As for mandatory minimum sentences, quite simply, they are a joke.
Each case, I think, should be judged on its own merits. Mandatory minimums prevent this from happening. Mandatory minimum sentencing, I think, has done little to address the real problem of drug abuse while also doing a great deal of damage by destroying so many lives. I am here to ask today for you to let judges to start doing their job. I am here to ask that we begin today the end of mandatory minimum sentencing.
When did we decide it was a good idea for elected legislators to play judge and jury? You know we have ACTUAL judges and juries for that, right? But it’s worse than that. It’s a bit like Minority Report, imposing a sentence on a future crime. Why do we take away discretion from judges and juries to determine the sentence based on the merits of each case? Anybody who calls themselves a conservative should be appalled by the notion of lumping people into groups, without considering each case and each human being, and then mandating a state sanctioned harsh and sweeping punitive action.