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Last year, the US Sentencing Commission got a reduction of some sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine, sparking a controversy about crack offenders made eligible for release, but the minimums remain the same." The article adds, "FAMM's new report argues that there's no evidence mandatory minimums have helped reduce drug crime, and in fact, often focuses law-enforcement efforts on small-time players rather than drug kingpins.It also argues that the sentences have imposed significant costs on the system, by putting nonviolent offenders in jail longer than appropriate.' This isn't as volatile an issue as it was in the 1980s, and we're a lot better educated than we were,' says Molly Gill, the report's author.In short, the Act seeks to all-out "eliminate the 100:1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine" that has produced massive racial disparities in sentencing and incarceration rates and undermined faith in the criminal justice system since its enactment in 1986. Robert Scott of Virginia and now boasts 22 co-sponsors - including the sponsors and co-sponsors of other recently proposed legislative measures addressing the issue.
According to the Christian Science Monitor September 25, 2008 article, ("Poll: 60 percent of Americans oppose mandatory minimum sentences") "In a new poll, some 60 percent of respondents opposed mandatory minimums for nonviolent crimes, including a majority of both Democrats and Republicans.As reported in a July 14, 2009 article by Talk Radio News Service's Aaron Richardson ("House Subcommittee Members Seek to Eliminate Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Drug Offenders"), "The House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security held a meeting on Tuesday to consider legislation that would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders." In fact, as reported in a press release circulated by Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) on the same day ("Unusual Allies Call on Congress to Fit the Punishment to the Crime"), the hearing included discussion of three sentencing reform measures: Rep. Stewart told members that "What really motivated me to start [FAMM] was not the length of my brother Jeff's five-year mandatory sentence - it was witnessing the judge's inability to give my brother the sentence he wanted to." Stewart added, "At sentencing, the judge stated that his 'hands were tied,' by mandatory sentencing laws," which she says "seemed utterly un-American [and] still does." Although Stewart noted recent rulings that now allow judges to exercise degrees of discretion in certain drug-related cases where mandatory minimums could be utilized, she argued that current "Safety Valve" measures don't go far enough.For his part, Norquist backed up Stewart's assertion that "mandatory minimums are a failure" by reciting the words of late journalist and cultural critc H. Mencken: "'There is always an easy solution to every human problem - neat, plausible, and wrong.'" Norquist continued, saying that, "Today, a generation later, it is increasingly clear that adoption of mandatory minimums, while neat and plausible responses to sentencing disparities, was the wrong solution." Norquist also cited the expense of such sentencing policies for taxpayers, testifying that, "Questioning the wisdom of mandatory minimums has nothing to do with being soft on crime.As the Chronicle writes, "MP Libby Davis (NDP-Vancouver East) told Vancouver's Cannabis Culture magazine [that] 'The evidence shows very, very strongly [...] that mandatory minimum sentencing is not an effective policy when it comes to drug crime.'" According to "Vancouver marijuana activist and Cannabis Culture publisher Marc Emery, [...] 'Mid and upper-level traffickers will get no particular increase in punishment, because a major dealer would already get six months or a year for any kind of trafficking.'" He asserted that the measure would instead affect "people who wouldn't normally go to jail" and that young people would comprise the vast majority of those new prisoners.Although, according to the Chronicle, the Canadian Senate - where the bill next stops - "typically -- but not always -- defers to the House" in legislative affairs, opponents of the measure hope but do not necessarily expect that the Senate will "act to block the passage of C-15" or at least "kill the bill by refusing to act on it before new elections are called." If the Senate does not exercise the above mentioned options, however, Canada will take a rare step backward by enacting draconian, harmful, and ineffective mandatory minimum drug policies just as other nations - including the United States - are beginning to realize the negative consequences such measures carry.