"They are also more likely to detect meaningful patterns where they might not exist.
People who are reluctant to believe in conspiracy theories tend to have the opposite qualities." Hart and his student, Molly Graether '17, surveyed more than 1,200 American adults.
This is especially true for crack-cocaine defendants, most of whom are black; despite the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, selling a small quantity of crack cocaine (28 grams) carries the same mandatory minimum sentence—five years—as selling 500 grams of powder cocaine.
This is the reality for which proponents of severe federal drug laws must account.
To the men and women who drafted our federal drug laws in 1986, this might come as a surprise. Robert Byrd, cosponsor of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, the reason to attach five- and ten-year mandatory sentences to drug trafficking was to punish “the kingpins—the masterminds who are really running these operations”, and the mid-level dealers. Today, almost everyone convicted of a federal drug crime is convicted of “drug trafficking”, which more often than not results in at least a five- or ten-year mandatory prison sentence.
That’s a lot of time in federal prison for many people who are minor parts of drug trade, the vast majority of whom are men and women of color.
“Never could I have imagined,” he writes in a recent piece in , “that…after nineteen years [as a federal district court judge], I would have sent 1,092 of my fellow citizens to federal prison for mandatory minimum sentences ranging from sixty months to life without the possibility of release.
The majority of these women, men and young adults are nonviolent drug addicts.” What about the kingpins? The numbers can’t convey the absurd tragedy of it all. They did not sell or directly distribute meth; there were no hoards of cash, guns or countersurveillance equipment.
They destroy families and mightily fuel the cycle of poverty and addiction.
Here, again, we have evidence that Judge Bennett is right: long mandatory sentences are unnecessary for most drug offenders. For decades, Judge Bennett has seen a system that doesn’t make sense.