24 Feb Smooth Criminals
Society Reacts over Obama’s Recent Commutations, Most for Drug Crimes
They don’t call it hard time for nothing. It isn’t every day that you hear of prison inmates being set free, with little to no effort at all. The world has been abuzz about President Obama’s recent commutations, with 46 convict’s sentences being reduced. Two of these lucky convicts, Bruce Todd and Katina Stuckey, are from Georgia, and Obama stated that their sentences “didn’t fit the crime,” with their release date being November 10th of this year. Almost all of the 46 convicts having their sentences commuted had been sentenced to at least 20 years in prison, and 14 of the inmates were even serving life. With all of the gun violence and controversy going on in our country as of late, Obama’s focus on releasing these prison inmates has caused quite a stir across America. What does this entail for these prison inmates as well as the rest of the United States as a whole?
The two Georgia inmates that President Obama is releasing this coming fall were both serving more than twenty-year sentences. Bruce Todd, age 54 of Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced in 2003 to 22 years on one count of distribution of at least 50 grams of crack-cocaine. Katina Stuckey Smith, age 42 of Montrose, Georgia, was sentenced in 2000 to more than 24 years on one count of conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute. In all reality, the release of these criminals will most likely have little to no effect on you. Should you really be up in arms over this? The greater question is, did their punishment truly fit the crime? Over twenty years for intent to sell crack-cocaine or cocaine seems a bit harsh, even in today’s plight against our nation’s drug epidemic.
President Obama states that most of these non-violent offenders were sentenced under outdated sentencing guidelines. Minimum sentencing guidelines have been a concern to Obama during his entire presidency, and in 2013 he told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “I am here to ask that we begin the end of mandatory minimum sentencing.” Federal mandatory minimum sentencing goes into effect whenever the crime involves the manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to distribute of:
- 1 kilogram of heroin
- 5 kilograms of cocaine
- 280 grams of crack
- 1,000 kilograms of marijuana or 50 grams of meth
First offenders are given a minimum sentence of ten years, and a second offense lands you twenty years. After a third drug trafficking offense you can be sentenced to life in prison. These mandatory minimum regulations were put into place during the mid-1980s, and that alone is enough to revisit and reform these lengthy and all too commonly inappropriate laws.
In the state of Georgia, even minor drug offenses will put you behind bars. Being in the possession of:
- less than one ounce of marijuana is classified as a misdemeanor (up to $1,000 in fines and 1 year jail time)
- more than one ounce of marijuana is considered a felony (possibility of numerous fines and up to 10 years jail time)
- cocaine as well as crack-cocaine is a felony by any amount (2 to 10 years jail time)
You might want to think twice about carrying your stash or even any amount of illicit drugs next time you hit the streets, seeing how strict Georgia drug laws are even on the lowest level of drug offenders. Or maybe it’s time to consider some of your options. Drug detox followed by a rehabilitation program may get you out of your downward spiral, as well as guarantee that you don’t end up doing time. It’s a win-win.
President Obama has issued almost 90 commutations so far during his presidency, with most of them being non-violent drug offenders. In Obama’s words,
“If you’re a low-level drug dealer, you owe some debt to society. You have to be held accountable and make amends.
But you don’t owe 20 years.
You don’t owe a life sentence.”
Although it is clear that many federal and state mandatory sentencing laws are far too harsh for first-time, non-violent drug offenders, it does raise the question, “are we doing enough to prevent these crimes from being committed in the first place?” The drug war within the United States is alive and well, taking lives faster each passing year. Can preventative care decrease the amount of addicts in our neighborhoods, and thus the amount of dealers on the streets and eventually in our prisons? Will drug detox and rehabilitation programs push the occupation of ‘drug dealer’ into scarcity? Drug dealers deserve the appropriate punishment for their crime, but hopefully they will learn their lesson before they find themselves behind bars in the first place.
“Drug Policy in America.” Dual Diagnosis. 15 Mar. 2019. https://www.dualdiagnosis.org/drug-policy-america/
Miller, Leah. “Guide to U.S. Drug Laws.” Recovery.org. 17 Nov. 2017. 15 Mar. 2019. https://www.recovery.org/addiction/us-drug-laws/
“State and Federal Drug Laws.” Get Smart About Drugs. 14 Aug. 2018. 15 Mar. 2019. https://www.getsmartaboutdrugs.gov/consequences/legal-consequences-of-drug-use