As Police Focus on Drug Use, Violent Crime Rises

The DEA has rejected medical use of cannabis and federal and state police around the country continue using tax money to go after non-violent consensual activities such as marijuana consumption and sales. Meanwhile, new data suggests a spike in violent crime nationwide. Are police targeting the wrong people as part of the Drug War? Could the prioritization of moralistic behavior control laws actually be fueling the uptick in violent crimes?

Families Against Mandatory Minimums has long supported sentencing reforms that refocus law enforcement away from nice people who grow or sell cannabis as a basic way to refocus law enforcement on serious crimes. Sure enough, the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for 2015 reports an increase in violent crime and a decrease in property crime.

“There’s a lot we don’t know about these disturbing numbers,” said FAMM Vice President Kevin Ring, “but we do know this: In an era of tight budgets, Congress must make tradeoffs between competing spending priorities. And in the area of combating serious, violent crime, Congress has made a clear – and incredibly dangerous – tradeoff over the last 20 years.

“Since 1998, Congress has increased spending on federal prisons by 45 percent while slashing spending on state and local law enforcement by 76 percent. This makes no sense at all, especially since most violent crime is investigated and prosecuted at the state and local level.”

For example, a murderer could get out of prison in a matter of a few years or for manslaughter, the sentence could be a few months. A person charged with a “drug conspiracy” — that is, talking about breaking drug laws — is handed a mandatory prison sentence that can run into decades and they must serve at least 85 percent of the penalty, deserved or not.

“Those who say these crime numbers argue against reform have it exactly backwards. These numbers – and cases like Robyn’s – make clear we can and need to do better – now.”

“Just so the record is clear, if the – if this Court had the discretion … this sentence would be much, much lower based on all of the reasonable and well thought-out sentencing factors.”  Hon. Judge John Gerrard’s sentencing statement regarding Robyn Hamilton’s 10 year mandatory sentence for a petty role in an alleged drug conspiracy. 

“If Congress cares about increasing public safety,” added Ring, “it will stop wasting so much taxpayer money holding low-level offenders and target more resources at the most dangerous criminals. FAMM today released its latest profile of an excessive mandatory minimum sentence that will do nothing to enhance public safety. Robyn Hamilton, a low-level drug offender, last year was sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 10 years. Robyn’s judge, who knew all the facts and circumstances of her case but could not consider them because Congress mandated her sentence, called her the “poster child” for eliminating one-size-fits-all, Washington knows best sentencing laws. We agree.

“Those who say these crime numbers argue against reform have it exactly backwards. These numbers – and cases like Robyn’s – make clear we can and need to do better – now.”


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