Harvard Study Finds Mandatory Sentences Wasteful 12/5/97

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A study of drug offenders serving long, mandatory sentences in Massachusetts found that nearly 83% were African American or Latino and that 2/3 had never been convicted of a violent crime. William Brownsberger, a state assistant attorney general, led the study which was conducted at Harvard Medical School. According to Mr. Brownsberger, "Mandatory sentencing laws are wasting prison resources on non-violent, low-level offenders and reducing resources available to lock up violent offenders."

The study, "Profile of Anti-Drug Law Enforcement in Urban Poverty Areas in Massachusetts," comes on the heels of anther study, conducted by the Rand Corporation, which found that mandatory minimum sentences were less cost-effective than traditional sentences. The Harvard study shows that the rate of admission to state correctional facilities for Latinos was 81 times that of whites. The African American rate is 39 times the white rate.

"Incarceration rates among blacks and Hispanics are damagingly high," said Brownsberger. "This study underscores how mandatory minimum sentencing for drug- related offenses is cheapening the deterrent effect of punishment. Overuse of incarceration can worsen the crime situation." The study notes that state drug sentences were often harsher than those for crimes such as manslaughter and armed robbery.

NOTE: We were very pleased at the great response from our subscribers to our November 20 alert, "Take action against mandatory minimums." For those of you who haven't yet done so, there's still time to contact your legislators and have your voice heard. Tell them about the Harvard study! Archived at http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1997/11-20-1.html.

If you want to learn more about mandatory minimum sentencing, and what can be done to reform the law, please contact Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM). Their phone number is (202) 822-6700. You can also find them on the web at http://www.famm.org -- tell them DRCNet sent you.

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Issue #21, 12/5/97 British Correspondents Needed for The Week Online | Harvard Study Finds Mandatory Sentences Wasteful | Study Finds Racial Disparities in Drug Sentences in Alabama: Really? Hmm | Clinton Backs UN Drug Czar's Plan to Give Economic Aid to the Taliban in Exchange for Opium Eradication | New Hampshire Legislator Introduces Medical Marijuana, Hemp Bills: "It's time to discuss these issues" says lawmaker | Prohibition-Induced Gang Warfare on Native American Reservation: 50 shots fired between children battling over drug turf | Colombia Passes Extradition Legislation... But it Won't be Retroactive | Mexico: Gun Battle at Border Kills Guard, and Newspaper Editor Shot by Cartel. More Prohibition-related violence | UK's New "Drug Czar" Rejects Legalization of Cannabis | Quote of the Week: Mr. Hellawell should hear what was said about the possibility of repealing Alcohol Prohibition in America! | Drug Policy Institute Accepting Applications | Editorial: Supporting barbarians in the drug war

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