Repeal Federal "Super-Sized Mandatory Minimums"

About half of all people in federal prison are there for a drug offenses, and in most cases they are low-level, nonviolent offenses. An obscure statute in federal drug law is contributing to this crisis, and it's time to fight back.

"Super-sized mandatory minimums," or "section 851 enhancements," refer to a statute passed in 1970 to help prosecutors appropriately sentence serious offenders. They allow prosecutors to ensure a defendant's mandatory minimum sentence is doubled or even increased to life in prison.

Not only does 851 increase sentences for non-violent offenders, data suggests it is disproportionately used against black defendants. Only 13% of the US population identifies as black, but 30% of all those sentenced for drug crimes -- and two-thirds of those who receive life sentences -- are black.

In 2014, then Attorney General Eric Holder directed prosecutors to refrain from using the 851 enhancement in plea negotiations. Under his watch, the federal prison population declined for the first time in three decades.

In the US criminal justice system, defendants are legally innocent until the government proves them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The 851 enhancement penalizes defendants for asserting this constitutional right.

The 851 enhancement distorts the criminal justice system and penalizes defendants for seeking a fair trial. It increases the prison population of non-violent offenders. Tell Congress to repeal this statute and end “super-sized mandatory minimums.”
Dear [Member of Congress],

I am writing to urge you to repeal the 851 statute.

Mandatory minimum laws already fill federal prisons with non-violent offenders, and these "super-sized mandatory minimums" are further exacerbating the problem.

In 2014, then Attorney General Eric Holder directed prosecutors to refrain from using the 851 enhancement in plea negotiations. I urge Congress to go one step further and repeal this statute.

[Your comments here]

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,
[Your name here]
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