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Mandatory Sentences Lead to Racial Bias Charge

“Black Mississippians are three times more likely than whites to go to prison on drug charges, despite the fact that both groups use drugs at virtually identical rates.” This is the bold statement made in a publication called The Raw Story on March 28, 2011.

A report released on March 28, 2011 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) states that the sentencing policies in Mississippi are more harsh than are those in most other states. The drug laws here force judges to stick to a mandatory minimum sentence for people convicted of nonviolent drug crimes and to seek the maximum sentences. For instance, according to the date from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the average sentence for drug sales in the US is 5.7. The average in Mississippi is 10.4. This means that even for a small amount of drug possession, a family can be severed for 7.2 years whereas the US average is 4.5. The person is put into uselessness and supported by the state for twice as long.

The reason for the tough punishment was supposed to frighten drug dealers and cause people to be less likely to take and to sell drugs. But it doesn’t seem like that has really worked. Maybe on this item it is worth considering what the ACLU has to say.

"Excessive reliance on imprisonment in Mississippi’s drug policy is wrongheaded and wasteful, senselessly incarcerating those who do not belong behind bars, at significant taxpayer expense," the ACLU's report said. "Public safety and the rule of law would be better served through a health-based solution that provides treatment and counseling to low-level drug offenders — replacing spiteful punishment with reasoned rehabilitation that furthers the best interests of both offenders and society at large."

Currently, the report says, the police are encouraged to arrest a large number of low-level drug traffickers and then use them as informants to help them to catch the big dealers. By having high sentences, this gives them room to negotiate the sentence down lower in exchange for information. The Executive Director of the ACLU of Mississippi, Nsombi Lambright, said there was an "urgent need to reform the policies that govern the drug enforcement system as a whole in Mississippi."


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