Is it right for a man with no prior offenses, an ex-service member, to get ten years on the first offense, just because he happened to be in the car with a person who normally sold drugs? According to one FAMM (Families Against Mandatory Minimums), that’s exactly what happened to an African-American man named Duane Edwards. He served in the Gulf War in Iraq, but got into trouble in 1995 when he got home and one of his friends sold some crack cocaine to an undercover cop. The police found more drugs in the car, and Edwards (even though it was his first offense and also the first time police had seen him with his friend in the car) received a mandatory ten years in jail. These are the kinds of cases that make judges upset. Most of the time they want to give reasonable sentences to those that simply made a bad one-time mistake, but it’s just out of their hands in so many cases.
The way our criminal justice system is going, things will probably get worse before they get better. The sentencing laws that keep low-income minorities in jail will be hard to overturn. Still, many judges across the country are beginning to get fed up with these harsh guidelines. And, if they continue to speak up and out against them, hopefully our lawmakers will see the bigger picture of this terrible reoccurring situation and start making the necessary steps to correct it.
Many prisons now have the name “Department of Corrections” or “Correctional Facility”, but the truth is many times nothing is being corrected, especially when there are so many inmates in the United States’ severely crowded facilities. The Justice Policy Institute once released a booklet entitled “Treatment or Incarceration” where they look at how much it costs to lock someone up compared to rehabilitating the person. You would think that the government would consider how much it was costing us taxpayers to fill up the prisons with so many first-time minority offenders, and change up the mandatory sentencing laws. But for some reason they don’t, and one may conclude that some of the higher-ups in many areas of our criminal justice system must get some kind of joy out of incarcerating so many low-income citizens every year.
Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM). Mandatory Sentencing Was Once America’s Law and Order Pancea. Newsletter. Retrieved from http://www.prisonpolicy.org/scans/famm/Primer.pdf.
Flavin, J., & Barak, G. (2010). Class, Race, Gender, and Crime: The Social Realities of Justice in America. Pages 222-226. Roman and Littlefield Publishing Group.