Mandatory Minimum Sentences and Drug Policy Reform
The use of mandatory minimums within our judicial system is not winning the war on drugs. This country needs drug law reforms to turn the tide on the war on drugs, and minimize their impact on our society. This comes from rehabilitation programs that are more effective and less costly for our government.
Our country has gone to extremes to try and win the war on drugs. There is no evidence to show that they have made any real impact in ending or even lowering the use of drugs in this country. In1986 the federal government enacted mandatory minimum drug sentences. These laws force judges to comply with a minimum prison sentence based on the nature of the drug crime. By doing this, the federal government has tied the hands of our judges to use their judgment depending on the case. Their argument for this is it will deter people from committing drug crimes in the future. My argument is that we are treating an addiction which needs both medical and psychological help to resolve, not longer prison sentences. Argument for Mandatory Minimums
In 1986 mandatory minimums were enacted to put an end to the cocaine and crack epidemic that was going on in our nation’s inner cities. The focus was if they could apprehend the drug kingpins and lock them away for many years in prison, they would lose their realm of control of the drug world. The reality of the situation is that many gang leaders are in prison today, and have just as much control over the drug trade as they did when they were free men. Many say that the laws have inadvertently become a racial problem within this country. Laws on mandatory minimum sentences are much harsher on crack than cocaine. Since crack is predominantly used among African Americans within this country, they received much harsher punishments than cocaine users who are predominantly white.
Argument against Mandatory Minimums
We are not simply dealing with a bad behavior that is a scourge on society. We are dealing with extremely addictive drugs that a prison sentence will do almost no good in helping people kick their habits, and thus their old way of life. These people need medical and psychiatric help in order to rehabilitate them into the nine to five taxpaying Americans that our country wants them to be. Many drug dealers started out as users and began to sell the drug in order to pay for their own habit. Mandatory minimum prison sentences for people who are sadly destroying their lives to maintain their own personal habit are not going to be reformed in our nation’s prisons. Most of the people within our prison system are their because of non-violent drug crimes. They are not horrible people who are their because of rape, murder, armed robbery, etc…
People who argue in favor of mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses say it is working by putting dealers behind bars. The fact is though that most of the people behind bars due to these laws are low level dealers. “In fiscal year 2005, 61.5% of all federal crack cocaine defendants were low-level offenders such as mules or street dealers. Only 8.4% were high-level dealers.” (Mandatory Minimums) Mandatory minimums only go by the weight of the substance that you were selling. It is clear by this data that the weights set in our current laws do not target high-level dealers as well as they were intended to. Rehabilitation Centers vs. Prison
Rehabilitation of our country’s drug users not only has a higher success rate than that of our prisons, it is also more cost efficient. It is what you refer to as a win-win. The amount of people within our jail and prison systems is estimated to be above six million people. Approximately half of these inmates used drugs regularly the month prior to their apprehension. It is fair to say then that nearly...
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