In the past, we have written about federal drug crimes and the damage the current criminal justice system does to those nonviolent offenders convicted of these charges. There are a number of New Jersey citizens who are sent to federal prisons to serve long mandatory minimum sentences just because they were caught with a certain amount of narcotics. With only a few grams less, it is possible that a judge would have far more discretion to sentence an offender based on the facts of the crimes.
Mandatory minimum sentences have a long history in the U.S., according to the nonprofit organization Families Against Mandatory Minimums. In the approximately 30 years since they have been in place, the number of federal prisoners has sky rocketed from 24,000 to 218,000.
The figures show that almost half of the people in federal prison are there for drug crimes. Of course, drug crimes sometimes involve violence, but many of these people are actually nonviolent offenders. As it is, more than half of the federal prisoners with a drug conviction have had only a few interactions with police, if any.
It is also no wonder that the U.S. has so many people in prison, as 90 percent of people convicted of federal crimes will be sent to prison; a mere 10 percent will be able to serve their sentence in home confinement or on probation.
Mandatory minimums for narcotic crimes have been around for quite a while, but there is growing concern that they are putting too many people in prison.
Source: Families Against Mandatory Minimums, “Quick Facts,” Accessed July 17, 2014