mandatory minimums

Law and Order
5:35 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

After 17 Years Behind Bars, Coming Home To A Different Life

Stephanie George (right) with her daughter, Kendra, and son Courtney. They were 5 and 8 when she went to prison on a drug charge. Last December, President Obama commuted her sentence.
Marisa PeƱaloza NPR

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 2:08 pm

When she went to prison on drug charges, Stephanie George was 26 years old, a mother to three young kids.

Over 17 years behind bars, her grandparents died. Her father died. But the worst came just months before her release.

"I lost my baby son," George says, referring to Will, shot dead on a Pensacola, Fla., street.

"I feel bad because I'm not coming home to all of them, you know," sobs George, now 44. "He was 4 when I left, but I miss him."

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Law and Order
3:39 am
Tue December 16, 2014

Judge Regrets Harsh Human Toll Of Mandatory Minimum Sentences

The shocking death of basketball player Len Bias from a cocaine overdose in 1986 led Congress to pass tough mandatory sentences for drug crimes.
AP

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 2:08 pm

It seems long ago now, but in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, murders and robberies exploded as cocaine and other illegal drugs ravaged American cities.

Then came June 19, 1986, when the overdose of a college athlete sent the nation into shock just days after the NBA draft. Basketball star Len Bias could have been anybody's brother or son.

Congress swiftly responded by passing tough mandatory sentences for drug crimes. Those sentences, still in place, pack federal prisons to this day. More than half of the 219,000 federal prisoners are serving time for drug offenses.

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Public Safety
10:41 am
Thu January 9, 2014

How Long Is Too Long? Congress Revisits Mandatory Sentences

Inmates walk around a recreation yard at the Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy, Calif., in January 2012.
Rich Pedroncelli AP

Originally published on Thu January 9, 2014 12:14 pm

Mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug dealers were once viewed as powerful levers in the nation's war against drugs, a way to target traffickers, and punish kingpins and masterminds.

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Public Safety
11:03 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

Report: Threat Of Mandatory Minimums Used To Coerce Guilty Pleas

In August, Attorney General Eric Holder told federal prosecutors to no longer hit low-level drug offenders with charges that carry mandatory minimum sentences. But it's not yet clear how broadly that directive is being interpreted.
Stephen Lam Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 8:44 am

A new report says the Justice Department regularly coerces defendants in federal drug cases to plead guilty by threatening them with steep prison sentences or stacking charges to increase their time behind bars.

And for the first time, the study by Human Rights Watch finds that defendants who take their fate to a judge or jury face prison sentences on average 11 years longer than those who plead guilty.

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