FAMM Challenges Sentencing Commission to Continue Leadership Role in Fight Against Mandatory Minimums

For Immediate Release

Families Against Mandatory Minimums
Contact: 

Monica Pratt Raffanel, media@famm.org

FAMM Challenges Sentencing Commission to Continue Leadership Role in Fight Against Mandatory Minimums

WASHINGTON - 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/FAMMFoundation.

 

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Families Against Mandatory Minimums is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization supporting fair and proportionate sentencing laws that allow judicial discretion while maintaining public safety.  For more information on FAMM, visit www.famm.org or contact Monica Pratt Raffanel at media@famm.org

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