Faithful H&R reader Ruthless pointed me to Debra Saunders' damning SF Chronicle column about mandatory minimum sentences. A snippet:
When I reached [former federal prison warden and supporter of mandatory minimums for drug crimes Joe] Bogan on his cell phone, I asked him how many drug kingpins he thought were in federal prison today. Bogan answered, "My estimation is of the 85,000 drug traffickers in the federal system, there are probably fewer than 1 percent of whom you could call kingpins."
Some inmates serving long sentences are first-time offenders such as Brenda Valencia, who was 19 years old when she was arrested for driving a drug dealer to another dealer's home. The feds charged Valencia for her role in a drug conspiracy. Her sentence: 12 1/2 years. The sentencing judge wrote that he found Valencia's sentence to be "an outrage," but that the law forced him to apply it.
Read the whole thing here and then call your congressman.