Pubdate: Wed, 22 Jul 2015
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Copyright: 2015 Globe Newspaper Company
Author: Barbara J. Dougan


Evan Horowitz gives a good overview of mandatory minimum sentences 
for drug offenses ("Mass. drug sentencing revisited," Capital, July 
17), but the argument that the current heroin crisis could be a 
reason to keep harsh penalties for drug trafficking misses the mark.

In Massachusetts, drug trafficking laws kick in for the sale of very 
small quantities of hard drugs - as little as 18 grams, or 2 to 3 
tablespoons. As a result, sentencing laws aimed at kingpins ensnare 
addicts, and judges are prevented from sending them to treatment. 
Instead, prison is the only outcome allowed.

That's why organizations on the front line of the heroin crisis, such 
as the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery and Learn to 
Cope, the statewide support network for families of opioid addicts, 
support the repeal of mandatory minimums.

Horowitz assumes that basic fairness calls for the same sentence for 
two people who commit the same kind of crime. But with mandatory drug 
sentencing laws, too often the charge is based solely on drug weight, 
which can have little to do with the person's role, motive, criminal 
history, or possible need for drug treatment - factors that a court 
could otherwise consider before imposing punishment. That's a far cry 
from basic fairness.

We've had more than three decades to see that mandatory minimums 
don't improve public safety. It's time to replace them with 
evidence-based solutions.

Barbara J. Dougan

Massachusetts project director

Families Against Mandatory Minimums
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom