Rep. Maxine Waters Introduces Bill to Remove Mandatory Minimums From Federal Law
Today on Capitol Hill, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), a Congressional leader in the fight to eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing, reintroduced the Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act (H.R. 3088). This bill would re-focus scarce federal resources to prosecute major drug kingpins and give courts and judges the authority to use greater discretion to make individualized determinations rather than being held to a stringent sentencing requirement prescribed by Congress.
This past August, Attorney General Holder announced that he would instruct federal prosecutors to forgo the pursuit of mandatory minimum sentences in certain cases involving low-level, non-violent drug offenders. The Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2013 would build on the Attorney General's announcement and codify into law the repeal of mandatory minimums for non-violent offenders so that no one, regardless of the Administration in office, will be subject to these harsh and ineffective sentencing policies.
"Although the Justice Department's policy shift is a welcoming step towards more "smart on crime" initiatives, the fight is far from over as long as mandatory minimums still remain in law," said Congresswoman Waters. "Mandatory minimum sentences have not reduced drug use and have contributed to exploding prison populations throughout the United States."
According to the Bureau of Prisons, when the Anti-Drug Abuse Act passed in 1986 containing lengthy mandatory minimum sentences, the prison population was 36,000. Today, the federal prison population is over 215,000 prisoners, an increase of nearly 800 percent in 28 years, costing taxpayers approximately $26,000 to keep one prisoner in federal prison for one year.
Congresswoman Waters has worked over the last 20 years to raise awareness and educate communities about mandatory minimums and sentencing disparities. On many occasions, Rep. Waters has partnered with organizations such as Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), the Open Society Institute, Drug Policy Alliance, and the Sentencing Project during these forums. She also worked alongside courageous advocates such as Professor Charles Ogletree and Kemba Smith, who was sentenced to serve a mandatory minimum before she was commuted under the Clinton Administration.
"Mandatory drug sentences have broken communities and destroyed lives. Mandatory minimums are not only ineffective, but they are also in direct contradiction with our fundamental principles of justice and the rule of law," added Congresswoman Waters. "It time for us to renew the call to action and continue the fight for the full repeal of these substandard sentencing policies."