Drug Policy

Study: Threat of Mandatory Minimums Used To Coerce Guilty Pleas in Drug Cases

97 percent plead guilty

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A new report says the Justice Department regularly coerces defendants in federal drug cases to plead guilty by threatening them with steep prison sentences or stacking charges to increase their time behind bars.

And for the first time, the study by Human Rights Watch finds that defendants who take their fate to a judge or jury face prison sentences on average 11 years longer than those who plead guilty.

In all, a whopping 97 percent of defendants plead guilty — no surprise, says author Jamie Fellner, given the enormous and essentially unchecked power that federal prosecutors wield.