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FAMM Challenges Sentencing Commission to Continue Leadership Role in Fight Against Mandatory Minimums
WASHINGTON - May 27 - In testimony before the U.S. Sentencing Commission today, Families Against Mandatory Minimums President (FAMM) Julie Stewart urges commissioners to continue their "strong, smart, and moral leadership" in the fight to repeal mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Ms. Stewart was invited to appear at the public hearing, which was organized by the Sentencing Commission to gather testimony regarding the issue of statutory mandatory minimum penalties in federal sentencing. A copy of Ms. Stewart's written testimony can be found at www.famm.org.
In her testimony, Ms. Stewart recounts the importance of the Commission's 1991 report on the failings of mandatory minimums to the newly created FAMM, which was founded in 1991. The report provided hard evidence and data sentencing reformers needed to strengthen FAMM's advocacy. Noting that the Commission was due to issue a new report on mandatory minimums in October 2010, Ms. Stewart said:
"I urge you to continue to play the same leadership role in opposing mandatory minimums that previous Commissions have. You have a bully pulpit that we do not have, and you should continue to use it to say loudly and clearly: Mandatory minimums were wrong before there were sentencing guidelines; they were wrong when the guidelines were enforceable; and they are wrong now that the guidelines are advisory."
Ms. Stewart also shares with the committee some examples of the harsh sentences that have resulted from mandatory minimum laws. For 19 years, FAMM has collected these personal stories and enabled these "Faces of FAMM" to become powerful advocates for reform. In her testimony, Ms. Stewart said:
"...[I]f we had collected only a handful of these horrible stories over the course of FAMM's existence, I might understand the reluctance of Congress or this body to pay too much attention. But we've collected thousands of these cases in nearly two decades. This is an epidemic of injustice."
Finally, Ms. Stewart warns the Commission from establishing uniformity as a higher sentencing goal than justice. She questions the superficial idea that one size fits all, saying:
"The biggest change that has taken place since the commission released its mandatory minimum report in 1991 is that the guidelines are no longer enforceable. I have heard it said that in an advisory guideline world, mandatory minimums are more important than ever to ensure uniformity of sentences. That is flawed logic.
"Research, science, and experimentation with alternative sentencing have given this commission and those in the states more and better information about what works in reducing crime. For example, we know how important age of the offender is in calculating risk of recidivism. We know that certainty and swiftness of punishment matter more than severity as deterrents. Mandatory minimums force judges to put their heads in the sand, ignore all of the new science and research, and issue pre-assigned, one-size-fits-all sentences. If that is what is meant by uniformity, it is not a goal worth pursuing."
Today's hearing is taking place at the Mecham Conference
Center, on the ground level of the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary
Building, One Columbus Circle, N.E., Washington, D.C. FAMM is also
posting messages on Twitter live from the Commission
hearing at http://twitter.com/