Target: US Sentencing Commission Chair Judge Patti Saris
Goal: Cut down mandatory minimum penalties for drug offenders
Excessive drug sentences have come under attack recently, since more and more Americans are becoming aware that non-violent drug offenses have played a huge role in ballooning our nation’s incarcerated population, wrongly imprisoning many people for far too long and wasting taxpayer dollars. Many have called for reforms on the mandatory minimum sentences, instated by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which are based on the quantity of the drug in question rather than the individual’s part in trafficking it. This formula was adopted by the Sentencing Commission in the late eighties to adjust their sentencing recommendations, which judges are meant to use as a guideline in determining sentences.
However, the Sentencing Commission has recently “unanimously voted on its list of priorities for the coming year, including consideration of federal drug sentences and continued work on addressing concerns with mandatory minimum penalties,” an important first step in the direction of rolling back minimum sentences. Noting in their press release that almost half of federal prisoners are drug offenders, the Sentencing Commission is making this reconsideration a priority in order to outline more appropriate sentencing and ease the financial burden of the ever-growing prison-industrial complex.
By signing this petition, you will encourage Judge Saris and the Sentencing Commission to pursue their goal of reducing the population of imprisoned Americans and ensuring more appropriate sentences for drug offenders by refocusing sentencing on other factors beyond quantity. In a time when the US imprisons significantly more of its population than any other nation, this reconsideration could not be more relevant or crucial.
Dear Judge Saris,
I am happy that you and the Sentencing Commission have decided to make drug sentencing reforms a priority this year. As you have noted, too many American prisoners are nonviolent drug offenders with steep sentences, the result of which is prison overcrowding as well as excessive expenditure of taxpayer dollars on building and maintaining prisons. The current guidelines for drug sentencing, including the mandatory minimum penalties, focus on the quantity of the drug in question as opposed to other factors such as the offender’s involvement in the crime.
I am calling on you to follow through on your determination to reconsider thoughtfully the existing guidelines for drug sentencing, keeping in mind the exorbitant percentage of incarcerated American citizens at this point in our history. I urge you to reduce mandatory minimum penalties and to refocus drug sentencing on more relevant factors. Thank you for your dedication to pursuing a more just American justice system.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Neon Tommy via Flickr