President Barack Obama‘s commutation of 8 crack cocaine sentences that he said were unduly harsh underscores the problem with so-called “mandatory minimum” drug sentencing laws that force judges to impose long sentences even if they don’t fit the crime.
“The people [whose sentences he commuted] yesterday already had served 15 years, many of them — one of them was a girlfriend who had just hid her boyfriend’s stash,” explained Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Virginia), on NewsOne Now with Roland Martin. “These people were given life sentences because of the mandatory minimum [requirement]. A reasonable sentence could possibly have been probation, 6 months, or maybe a year.”
“If you took a message for somebody or drove somebody, or gave somebody a ride somewhere,” he continued, “when it’s time to sentence you, you get busted on the total weight of everything the guy [you drove] was dealing and that’s how you get these mandatory minimums.”
Scott said that billions wasted on unnecessary convictions should be invested in our children and programs like The Boys & Girls Club, instead.
Listen to what he had to say about Congress’ responsibility to change the laws, below.