Mandatory Sentencing

Topics: Prison, Drug addiction, Heroin Pages: 6 (1620 words) Published: April 23, 2014
Destiny Barron
Bridget Murphy
English 1202
Argumentative Research Paper
April 16, 2014

One Strike and You Are Out

Mostly anyone these days can say that they have known or can identify a person who is suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction. From the addicts that we hear about, come the stories of stupidity, irrational decision making, and sometimes jail time. Some of the abusers commit crimes and do not fully understand the repercussions of their impulsive actions. For any addict, your destiny may depend merely on the weight of the drug you are caught with, where you are caught, or who you are caught selling the drug to. There was a Florida man, Jack Horner, a 46-year-old restaurant worker, who got hooked on painkillers after an eye injury in the year 2000. Horner sold $1800 dollars’ worth of his painkillers to a new "friend" who turned out to be a police informant. He received twenty five years in the state penitentiary. Jack did not have any prior criminal record but still received the minimum prison sentence of twenty five years behind bars. He will not get out of prison until he is 72 years old. He left behind three young daughters which he will never get to see on the “outside” again. Every person will have an opinion to this story but the length of time that a person is taken away from society and placed behind bars because of a fight with morality; should be prominent in our minds. Was this the correct sentence for the crime committed? Would everyone identify Jack Horner as a criminal that deserves this twenty five year sentence for selling pain killers? If every American who has ever possessed illicit drugs were punished for it, nearly half of the U.S. population would have drug violations on their records. (Drug Policy Alliance) Prison populations have soared between the fifty states since the end of the twentieth century and inner city residents, especially African Americans and Hispanics, seemed to be the primary target for drug related offenses. The 1980’s, the “crack epidemic” brought a host of harsh sentencing laws. In 1986, the “War on Drugs Act” was passed by Ronald Reagan and became a major culprit to crippling minorities found to be in possession of crack cocaine. The new strict and harsh drug regulations failed to have the same repercussions to the white offenders found in possession of the powder form of cocaine as it did for the African American people. The US Sentencing Commission explained that under the act, “a person found with five grams of crack cocaine - the weight of two pennies, faced a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence. A person holding powder cocaine could receive the same sentence only if he or she held a weight of five hundred grams. Similarly, those carrying ten grams of crack cocaine faced a ten-year mandatory sentence, while possession of one thousand grams of powder cocaine was required for the same sentence to be imposed". (U.S. Sentencing Commission) New three-strike laws mandated life sentences for a multitude of both violent and non-violent offenders. The federal government rewarded states with prison construction grants for passing legislation requiring that offenders serve at least 85% of their sentences. (Thompson) In 1995, the US sentencing commission proposes a change to the mandatory sentencing for crack versus cocaine but it is denied. Over 1.7 billion dollars has been spent trying to fund the War on Drugs. Last year a major change was underway. US Attorney General, Eric Holder, initiated the Smarter Sentencing Act. This act will reduce the length of some drug mandatory minimum sentences, allow judges to use more discretion to determine sentences for low level drug offenses, and apply the law that reduced the crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity to those currently serving sentences for these offenses. In 2013, President Obama pardoned the sentences of eight federal inmates who were convicted of crack cocaine offenses. This is a step in a...
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