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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.

Be sure to tune in to NewsOne Now with Roland Martin, weekdays at 7 a.m. EST.

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