From the February 2010 Idaho Observer:

Its Time to Abolish Mandatory Minimums

WASHINGTON, D.C. – [On January 21, 2010] the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill that could result in an unprecedented overhaul of the nation’s criminal justice system. Sponsored by Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.) and a bipartisan group of senators, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009 (S. 714) would create a blue-ribbon commission to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the entire criminal justice system and offer concrete recommendations for reform within 18 months.

Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) is working with Sen. Webb and members of Congress to ensure that the Commission conducts a thorough evaluation of sentencing policies, including mandatory minimums.

“FAMM commends the Senate Judiciary for recognizing that the American criminal justice system needs an overhaul,” said Jennifer Seltzer Stitt, FAMM federal legislative affairs director. “Any comprehensive reform of our criminal justice system must include eliminating mandatory minimum laws. One-size-fits-all mandatory drug sentencing laws enacted in the 1980s are responsible for filling prisons with low-level, nonviolent drug offenders, wasting millions in taxpayer dollars, and destroying public trust in the criminal justice system. The National Criminal Justice Commission can help right these wrongs by recommending mandatory sentencing reform.”

A shift in federal sentencing policies would allow Congress to catch up with the national trend at the state level away from the rigidity and excessiveness of mandatory minimums. Just last week, New Jersey’s legislature voted to eliminate mandatory minimum penalties for certain offenses committed in drug-free school zones. In December, Rhode Island repealed all of its drug mandatory minimums. Over a dozen cash-crunched states have enacted significant sentencing reforms in the last decade, saving millions of dollars and reducing pressure on overcrowded prisons.

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 or contact Monica Pratt Raffanel at

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