Help Make a Change;Unjust Mandatory Minimums

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Mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines require defendants successfully convicted of a crime to be sentenced to a minimum length of time in prison. They eliminate judicial discretion in the determination of punishments for particular crimes. In cases involving mandatory minimum sentences, judges cannot reduce the sentence for any reason. Juries determining guilt or innocence in mandatory minimum sentences are often not informed of the mandatory sentence in order to prevent sentencing requirements from interfering in their decision. Mandatory minimum sentencing was initially developed by Congress and applied to the use and possession of marijuana. California’s “Three Strikes” rule is one example of a mandatory minimum sentencing requirement.

mandatory-minimum-sentences

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. recently said that his top priority is to improve the criminal justice system. He can start by pushing Congress and the United States Sentencing Commission to fix the unfair problem of excessive mandatory minimum sentences.

The commission reported recently that in the 16-year period through fiscal year 2011, the annual number of federal offenders “increased substantially,” from 37,091 to 76,216. The commission previously explained that “excessively severe” mandatory minimum sentences added heavily to this increase and to overcrowding in prisons.

Federal judges are acutely aware of this issue. Judge John Gleeson of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, for one, has been a vigorous critic of mandatory minimum sentences. In an opinion last year, he criticized federal prosecutors for seeking those sentences against defendants who are not “leaders and managers of drug enterprises” and Congress for laws that focus too heavily on the type and quantity of the drugs involved in a crime rather than the role the defendant played. This has meant that low-level offenders are often given sentences equal to those of major offenders.

Dear Aaron–

The time is NOW to support federal sentencing reform. We need your support on Tuesday, December 10. All it will involve is five minutes and picking up your phone – but your help could make a big difference!

On Thursday, December 12, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will meet to begin discussing mandatory minimum sentencing reform and the Smarter Sentencing Act, S. 1410. If passed, that bill would benefit thousands of nonviolent federal offenders facing mandatory minimum sentences (including some crack offenders who are already in federal prison).

If you live in one of the states listed below, now is the time to call your U.S. Senator(s) on the Judiciary Committee and tell them to vote in favor of the Smarter Sentencing Act or, if they are already supporting the bill, to thank them for doing so. Please participate in our national call-in day on December 10 if you live in one of the states listed below. Here’s how it works:

1. On Tuesday, December 10, 2013, call 202-224-3121. Ask to speak with your Senator. You will be transferred to your Senator’s office. Only people who live in one of the states listed below should make the phone calls.

Your State

Senator(s) to Call

Message to Use (see below for script)

Day to Call:

Tuesday,

December 10, 2013

Alabama

Jeff Sessions

Support S. 1410

Arizona

Jeff Flake

Support S. 1410

California

Dianne Feinstein

Support S. 1410

Connecticut

Richard Blumenthal

Support S. 1410

Delaware

Christopher Coons

Support S. 1410

Hawaii

Mazie Hirono

Support S. 1410

Illinois

Richard Durbin

Thank you

Iowa

Charles Grassley

Support S. 1410

Minnesota

Amy Klobuchar

Support S. 1410

Minnesota

Al Franken

Support S. 1410

New York

Chuck Schumer

Support S. 1410

Rhode Island

Sheldon Whitehouse

Thank you

South Carolina

Lindsey Graham

Support S. 1410

Texas

John Cornyn

Support S. 1410

Texas

Ted Cruz

Support S. 1410

Utah

Orrin Hatch

Support S. 1410

Utah

Mike Lee

Thank you

Vermont

Patrick Leahy

Thank you

2. Share your message. When you are transferred to your U.S. Senator’s office, speak with the person who answers the phone (you won’t be able to speak directly to the Senator). Using the chart above, pick the appropriate message to use with your Senator:

Support S. 1410 Message:

Hello, I’m a constituent, and I’m calling to ask the Senator to vote in favor of mandatory minimum sentencing reform like the Smarter Sentencing Act, S. 1410, at this Thursday’s Judiciary Committee markup. The Senator should vote to reform mandatory minimums because they are unfair, expensive, and don’t keep us safe. Thank you for considering my views. [Optional: share your story of how mandatory minimum sentencing laws have impacted you or your family.]

OR

Thank You Message:

Hello, I’m a constituent, and I’m calling to thank the Senator for supporting mandatory minimum sentencing reform and the Smarter Sentencing Act, S. 1410. The Senate should vote to reform mandatory minimums because they are unfair, expensive, and don’t keep us safe. Thank you for considering my views. [Optional: share your story of how mandatory minimum sentencing laws have impacted you or your family.]

3. If you are calling more than one U.S. Senator from your state, repeat Steps 1 and 2 with your other U.S. Senator.

We do not expect the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to vote on the Smarter Sentencing Act or any other bills on December 12 – but that hearing is the beginning of the debate on what mandatory minimum sentencing reform will look like. It is very important that the Senators go into the hearing knowing that their voters support sentencing reform. Remember: Your U.S. Senators won’t support sentencing reform unless they know that you do!

So, mark your calendars and plan to call the U.S. Senate on December 10, 2013!

Thank you for your support and your help. Together, let’s tell the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that we want mandatory minimum sentencing reform!

Sincerely,

Molly

Molly Gill

Government Affairs Counsel, FAMM

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