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FAMM Applauds Young Offender Sentencing Provisions in RAISE Act

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MEDIA CONTACT: Mike Riggs, mriggs@famm.org

Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) applauded today’s introduction of the Reforming Alternatives to Incarceration and Sentencing to Establish a Better Path for Youth Offenders (RAISE Act of 2015) in the U.S. House of Representatives by House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and House Judiciary Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX). Among other things, the bill, if passed, would permit federal judges to give less prison time than required by a mandatory minimum sentence to nonviolent offenders who committed their crimes at age 21 years old or younger, if applying the mandatory minimum sentence is unnecessary to protect the public and would result in substantial injustice to the young offender.

FAMM founder and president Julie Stewart issued this statement in response to the new bill: 

In the 25 years that I have run FAMM, I have read countless sad stories about young people who became addicted to drugs or sold drugs out of fear, desperation, or, frankly, simple youthful stupidity. Proponents of mandatory minimums will tell you that these long sentences were created to deter people from committing drug crimes. But any parent can tell you that the last thing a young person does when they’re about to make a mistake is a well-informed, cost-benefit analysis of the risks and rewards of their choice. That’s why so many disciplinary conversations start with an exasperated parent asking, “What were you thinking?!” The answer, of course, is that they weren’t.

Science and personal experience tell us that young people are impulsive, less capable of resisting negative peer influences, and still, quite literally, in formation. Our young people are also full of promise and potential. Mandatory minimum sentences kill the future of a young person during the years when they should be getting educated, building a resume, and starting families. This bill would give judges flexibility to give sentences that recognize both the pitfalls and promises of youth.