June 27, 2016—”Conservatives,” Virginia’s former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli once said, “should lead the campaign to changing the culture of corrections in America.”
The idea that conservative principles regarding family, liberty, and prosperity are the pillars of a free society has long prompted conservative leaders to combine forces with progressives and libertarians to push for justice reform, helping to implement changes both at the state and federal levels that have, little by little, started to make a real change in people’s lives.
During a recent event organized by the conservative and libertarian advocacy group FreedomWorks, a group of libertarian and conservative bloggers gathered to listen to some of the leaders working together to reform the criminal justice system in America. One of these leaders is Molly M. Gill, a former prosecutor who now serves as the Director of Federal Legislative Affairs for Families Against Mandatory Minimums Foundation (FAMM). With the slogan “Sentences that fit. Justice that works,” FAMM was founded in 1990 by Julie Stewart, the former public affairs director at the Cato Institute.
During the #JusticeForAll summit organized by FreedomWorks, Gill took her time to discuss some justice reform bills in Congress, but she also offered the bloggers in attendance a better idea of why justice reform is important from a practical standpoint.
What sparked Stewart to create FAMM, Gill explained, was her own family’s experience with the drug war.
Shortly before the creation of FAMM, Stewart learned that her brother had been convicted and ordered to remain in federal prison for 5 years for growing marijuana. The sentence was deemed too harsh, but judges are bound by mandatory sentencing laws to often act outside of their discretionary judgment. Instead of being given a “slap on the wrist,” Stewart’s brother was treated like a criminal.
According to Gill, FAMM believes that excessive penalties tied to mandatory minimums are inflexible, keeping judges from being able to review the cases individually and come to rulings that fit the crimes. And unfortunately for many non-violent drug law offenders, long, harsher sentences are the norm, not the exception. In order to change this scenario, FAMM, along many other groups, works to put an end to mandatory minimums.
When discussing the US drug war and its failures, Gill told the audience that what the US war on drugs has taught us is that you simply “cannot incarcerate our way out of our drug problem.”
One of the bills supported by FAMM is the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 (S. 2123). If passed, S. 2123 would reduce several federal mandatory minimum drug and gun sentences, while also making these reductions retroactive in some cases. S. 2123 counts with a great deal of support from senators from both sides of the aisles.
Do you think targeting mandatory minimums can help ease our way out of the drug war? Share your thoughts with us!