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New Video Highlights Problems with Mandatory Minimum Laws

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Leading Sentencing Reform Group Urges Congress to Be Bold

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Leila McDowell, lmcdowell@famm.org, 202-822-6700

WASHINGTON – Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) today launched a new campaign calling for a rollback of federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws after releasing a video telling the story of Mandy Martinson, an Iowa woman serving 15 years in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense that she committed as an addict.

“Mandy Martinson was the quintessential girl next door,” said FAMM president and founder Julie Stewart. “She was a happy and loving daughter and friend who sadly become addicted to drugs. Now she’s serving a 15-year mandatory minimum prison sentence that Congress intended for kingpins. This is insane and it needs to stop.”

Martinson’s long mandatory sentence was required by federal conspiracy and gun laws. Under conspiracy law, Martinson was held accountable and received a 10-year sentence for all the drugs her then-boyfriend possessed and kept in her home in the short time they lived together. She was also held accountable and received an additional five-year prison sentence for two handguns brought into the home by the boyfriend. Prior to her sentencing, Martinson successfully completed drug treatment and became sober. However, at sentencing her judge was not permitted to consider her minor role in the offense, her addiction, or the fact that she did not use the guns or commit violence. Judge James Gritzner, an appointee of President George W. Bush, said that the 15-year sentence was excessive and that Martinson did not endanger the public so long as she obtained drug treatment.

In its new campaign, FAMM is calling on Congress to pass sentencing reforms that would adjust mandatory minimum statutes so that judges can consider the factors Judge Gritzner could not consider when sentencing Martinson to 15 years in prison. “We are gratified by the bipartisan support sentencing reform now enjoys,” said Stewart, “but we think Congress must pass changes to prevent future Mandy Martinsons from getting excessive prison terms for nonviolent offenses.” Stewart said that the two major sentencing reform bills pending in Congress, the Sentencing Reform Act (H.R. 3713) and the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S. 2123) would not address the problems that resulted in Mandy’s sentence.

“Anyone who says the current sentencing reforms in Congress go too far needs to listen to Mandy Martinson’s story,” said Stewart. “Mandatory minimum sentences are going to keep churning out stories like this unless we start letting courts look at the individual and look at the facts in each case.”

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