“….The American justice system traditionally permits judges to weigh all the facts of a case when determining an offender’s sentence. But in the 1970s and 1980s, the U.S. Congress and many state legislatures passed laws that force judges to give fixed prison terms to those convicted of specific crimes, most often drug offenses.
Members of Congress and state legislators believed these harsh, inflexible sentences would catch those at the top of the drug trade and deter others from entering it. Instead, this heavy-handed response to the nation’s drug problem filled prisons with low-level offenders, resulting in over-capacity prison populations and higher costs for taxpayers. Mandatory sentencing laws disproportionately affect people of color and, because of their severity, destroy families. Two decades after the enactment of mandatory sentences, these laws have failed to deter people from using or selling drugs: drugs are cheaper, purer and more easily obtainable than ever before…..”