Another Reagan Legacy: Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences
Yesterday we noted with sympathy the passing of former President Ronald Reagan. As his deification by the media and the right continues today, we thought we'd point out three of his less-than-endearing legacies:
- Mandatory minimum drug sentences in 1986. This was the first time Congress passed mandatory minimum sentences since the Boggs Act in 1951.
- Federal sentencing guidelines: Under this new method of sentencing which went into effect in 1987, prison time is determined mostly by the weight of the drugs involved in the offense. Parole was abolished and prisoners must serve 85% of their sentence. Except in rare situations, judges can no longer factor in the character of the defendant, the effect of incarceration on his or her dependents, and in large part, the nature and circumstances of the crime. The only way to receive a more lenient sentence is to act as an informant against others and hope that the prosecutor is willing to deal. The guidelines in effect stripped Article III of their sentencing discretion and turned it over to prosecutors.
- The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988: This law established a federal death penalty for "drug kingpins." President Reagan called it a new sword and shield in the escalating battle against drugs, and signed the bill in his wife's honor:
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