Today's subject is "how to waste money and inflict maximum pain by locking up non-violent drug users for painfully long jail sentences."
So let's get right to it.
In its introduction to a "must read" article, the Nation magazine writes about a representative case in point involving a young woman named Sabrina Giles. Sabrina was 22 years old in 2004 and was sentenced to 12 years in prison for Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute over 50 grams of meth; and possession with intent to distribute over five grams of meth.
The Nation writes that Sabrina's parents fought often during her childhood, and frequently their arguments would lead to physical violence. They divorced after Sabrina's father was incarcerated for trafficking marijuana. Her mother worked hard cleaning motel rooms to provide for Sabrina.
The article is by Federal District Judge Mark W. Bennett, and reading it will make you angry and break your heart. This is not some aberration the Judge trotted out as some kind of an editorial zinger. This description of Sabrina's tragic journey through our broken criminal justice system was written by the man who reluctantly meted out her sentence. It appeared in the November 12, 2012, edition of The Nation. Judge Bennett was appointed by President Clinton.
There is a second reason Judge Bennett's article is remarkable. That's because only a tiny handful of sitting Federal Judges have spoken out publicly on the injustice of mandatory minimum sentences. In doing so, Judge Bennett has shown unusual courage and no doubt earned the enmity of those who think mandatory minimums are solving our drug problem.
Judge Bennett tells us that Sabrina's battle with substance abuse began at age 12 when she started smoking marijuana. In tenth grade she became pregnant and dropped out of school. The father of Sabrina's child was extremely abusive and is currently incarcerated.
When Sabrina was 19-years-old, she fell in love with a man 13 years her senior. He was a known methamphetamine dealer in New Mexico and introduced the drug to Sabrina.