NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

States Rethinking Mandatory Minimum Drug-Crime Sentences

December 26, 2002

Faced with bulging prisons and budget deficits, a handful of states are repealing mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug-related crimes. They would grant judges greater leeway in imposing sentences and, in some cases, release convicts already serving time.

New sentencing policies could result in significant savings to taxpayers, say some proponents.

  • Michigan, for example, spends an average of $28,000 a year on each of its 49,296 inmates.
  • Michigan lawmakers have already passed legislation expected to be signed by the governor next week to eliminate mandatory minimums for drug crimes.
  • State officials say drug offenders have the highest rate of parole -- 72 percent -- and nearly 62 percent of other nonviolent offenders receive parole when they are first eligible.

At present, Michigan law requires a sentence of at least 10 years and up to 20 years for a person convicted of possessing 50 to 224 grams of narcotics or cocaine. The new legislation would allow the judge to impose any sentence up to 20 years.

Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey, and North Carolina are also considering eliminating such rules, according to the group Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

Source: Associated Press, "Michigan to Drop Minimum Sentence Rules for Drug Crimes," New York Times, December 26, 2002.


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