Congress Can Create a Smarter Criminal Justice System

Post Date: December 12, 2013

hasan(The Hill) — If you doubt the unfairness of our country’s criminal justice system, look no further than Hamedah Hasan.

When Hamedah was 21 years old, she fled an abusive relationship and moved in with her cousin, who was a drug dealer. Feeling out of options and indebted to her cousin for helping her, she agreed to run various errands and transfer some money for him. Eventually she found the strength to move back home, hoping to get away from the drug operation and earn an honest living for the sake of her two small children.

But her past caught up with her, and Hamedah was convicted of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. Despite her previously clean record, her sentencing judge found his hands tied by mandatory minimum sentencing laws  and initially sentenced her to a life sentence for a first-time, nonviolent drug crime.

Fortunately, after 19 years in prison, Hamedah was released last year as a result of the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s retroactive application of the new crack cocaine sentencing guidelines. But Hamedah’s story is sadly neither unusual nor unique.

It’s time to change our country’s extreme sentencing laws that destroy lives like Hamedah’s and waste taxpayer dollars with no benefit to public safety. We need the Smarter Sentencing Act to make our criminal justice system smarter, fairer, and more humane. Read more