Flying in the face of justice
We think it’s time Congress addresses and rethinks the law requiring mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug crimes enacted back in the 1980s.
That law impacting non-violent criminals has caused our federal prison populations to soar, leading to overcrowding, exorbitant costs, diversion of funds from law enforcement, and sometimes dangerous criminals loosed to make room for non-violent, drug-related offenders.
The United States has 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prison population. In 1980, American taxpayers spent $540 million incarcerating 24,000 federal prisoners. Today, we spend more than $7 billion incarcerating 220,000 in federal prisons, many of them non-violent offenders posing no threat to public safety.
We are not absolving drug-involved offenders from being arrested, charged and penalized. But mandatory minimum sentences disrupt the balance of justice by transferring power from impartial judges to prosecutors and politicians. This one size fits all sentencing laws undermine justice by preventing the punishment from fitting the crime and taking an individual’s circumstances into consideration.
Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst are on the Senate Committee fighting for prison system reform. There also is a website called FAMM (Families Against Maximum Minimums), an organization working for prison reform.
We urge more people to get educated and get involved in working to repeal mandatory minimum prison sentences. They’re not a quick-fix. They are an unnecessary burden on taxpayers and a cold, calculated, costly short cut to justice.