Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Combat in the war on drugs

Despite being the same drug, there was a time that if someone was caught with one gram of crack cocaine would be sentenced to as much jail time as someone who had 100 grams of cocaine.  But after the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act, this was reduced to a standard that is closer to 1 gram of crack cocaine equals the same amount of jail time as someone with 18 grams of cocaine.  Recently, Attorney General Eric Holder outlined recently how he would try to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent, non-gang affiliated drug offenders.

These actions could be a combination of both executive orders and Congressional action.  Currently, there is S. 619 or H.R. 1695, the Justice Safety Valve Act.  The Justice Safety Valve Act would give federal judges the authority to sentence below federal mandatory minimum sentences if the circumstances warrant it.  These circumstances would likely be if they are nonviolent or non-gang affiliated drug offenders.  Federal judges would be required to write down why they decided to sentence those below the mandatory minimum.  I imagine that these instructions could be used at a later time if similar circumstances arose.

There is also S. 1410, known as the Smarter Sentencing Act.  This act would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes, expand the drug sentencing safety valve, and apply retroactively the Fair Sentencing Act for those who began their prison sentence before the act was passed.  These bills are good steps in combating the war on drugs that Richard Nixon declared.

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