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Conyers Calls for Saner Drug Sentencing Policies

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) is calling for saner drug sentencing polices, particularly for women (pdf):

“The most recent casualties in the War on Drugs are women subject to misguided sentencing policy for acting as low level drug offenders. These casualties are referred to as the Girlfriend Problem. Many women are becoming implicated in drug trafficking operations because their boyfriends and husbands are high-level drug offenders. Our prison population now tops 2 million, which means 1 in 142 US residents are now in prison. The female population has increased rapidly with 101,000 women in state or federal custody last year, a 50% increase from 1995.

Irrational and unjust sentencing policies explain the increase in the women’s prison population. In too many cases, a woman is punished for the act of remaining with a boyfriend or husband engaged in drug activity, who is typically the father of her children. Under current law, even the least involved people in drug operations are held liable for the entire quantity of drugs found in connection with the conspiracy.

We need rational sentencing policy that encompasses such measures as fair and equitable sentencing, treatment instead of incarceration, drug courts, reentry programs, and restored judicial discretion. For this reason, I founded the Sentencing, Incarceration, and Public Safety Caucus. The Caucus provides a forum in which viable sentencing policy can be discussed and strategies for implementation can be identified. I am also preparing to reintroduce reentry legislation that will assist the more than 600,000 people leaving prison each year – many of them now women. This bill will provide state and local governments with grants for reentry programs, give employers incentives for hiring ex-felons, and repeal prohibitions on student loans for drug offenders.”

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    I recently saw a documentary called Pack, Strap & Swallow, about women in prison for drug trafficing -- and in every case it was at the behest of some guy they were involved with, usually someone who went out and recruited lonely women just for this purpose. It was all terribly sad. Conyers' bill probably has a snowball's chance in hell, but as usual he's years ahead of the rest of the pack in terms of social evolution.

    Re: Conyers Calls for Saner Drug Sentencing Polici (none / 0) (#2)
    by kdog on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:00:06 PM EST
    I'm afraid a snowballs chance in hell are accurate odds. Just once I'd like to hear a politician criticize the drug war for the simple reason that drug laws are anti-freedom. It's always half-arsed criticism about reducing sentences or a reorganization of prohibition policy. No politician has the nerve to call drug prohibition what it is, fundamentally flawed.

    Re: Conyers Calls for Saner Drug Sentencing Polici (none / 0) (#3)
    by SeeEmDee on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:00:07 PM EST
    Ever since I first started reading about the war on drugs, I had always wondered why so many minorities were in prison when the vast majority of the population - making up the majority of drug users - were obviously white. Then I started reading about the beginning of the war on drugs. Not the one everybody says is the beginning - Nixon and all that. I mean at the very beginning. When you read some of the things that the people who first came up with the laws said about blacks, hispanics, asians, etc. it was an eye opener. Then I started to wonder: do any of the African-American or Hispanic-American leaders know about this? How can they not, when so many of their own people are behind bars because of what was started so long ago? This graphic novel (taking its idea from the Dickens classic) gives a pretty good and easily understandable overview of how it all got started: A Drug War Carol

    I am all for lesser penalties on drug offenses, but let's face it- all drug offenders have been coerced by either their own desire to feel good or by the raging black market that our prohibition has created. Legalize it all, and the gangs and violence will fall away. And if 1/2 the budget for the WOD was spent on addiction research, we might even be able to kill the monkey. /Wishing the government thought with logic.

    Re: Conyers Calls for Saner Drug Sentencing Polici (none / 0) (#5)
    by kdog on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:00:07 PM EST
    The sanest drug sentencing policy is not sentencing people to time in cages over drugs at all. Thats the sanest, better than saner.