#27: The Curse of Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences
Since the mid 1980s, mandatory minimum drug sentences have served as the driving force behind the explosion in the federal prison population, and also the vast racial disproportionality in that population.
A new documentary, Incarcerarting US, released in September of 2016, tells the story of how this happened, and the film features our guest, Eric Sterling. In 1986, Sterling was then a lawyer on the staff of the House Judiciary Committee, and it fell to him to draft the language that became law and resulted in mandatory prison sentences for many thousands of people for possession of relatively small amounts of drugs, primarily crack cocaine.
Sterling has spent the last 27 years attempting to correct these mistakes. He is the Executive Director of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, and also helped found Families Against Mandatory Minimums. He testifies regularly in Congress on drug laws and other matters of criminal justice policy.