DRCNetDrug Reform Coordination Network

11/20/97

Legislative Alert -- Oppose Mandatory Minimums

There are two bills in the U.S. House of Representatives that would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for certain low-level, non-violent drug offenders. We are asking DRCNet readers to write, fax or call their Representatives in support of these two bills.

H.R. 1237 -- Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) has sponsored a bill that would make the safety-valve that passed in 1994 retroactive. The safety-valve gives judges discretion to exempt certain first-time offenders from the 5 and 10 year mandatory minimum sentences. When the provision was being debated three years ago, the National Rifle Association ran ads featuring actor Charlton Heston, claiming the bill would "let 10,000 drug dealers out of prison." The NRA was opposed to other provisions in the Crime Bill, and sought to derail it by portraying the bill as "soft on crime." They failed to prevent passage of the Crime Bill, including the gun control provisions, but did succeed in getting the safety-valve stripped of retroactivity at the last minute. Real people who don't belong in prison will get out if H.R. 1237 passes -- but the only realistic way that it will be passed is as part of a larger bill. (To learn some of the tortured history of the '94 Crime Bill fight, visit our search engine at http://search.druglibrary.org and type in "safety valve", or browse our action alert archive at http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/.)

H.R. 2031 -- Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) and 19 of his colleagues are co-sponsoring a bill that would raise the quantity of crack cocaine needed to trigger the five-year mandatory minimum, instead of lowering the quantity of powder cocaine required. Rangel originally supported the 5- gram, 5-year mandatory minimum, but recently stated on the House floor that he had been mistaken and that it should be corrected now. The bill would raise the threshold for the 5-year mandatory minimum to 500 grams, matching sentences for powder cocaine.

Please ask your Representative to support and co-sponsor these bills, and please ask your two Senators to introduce and support equivalent legislation in the Senate. You can call your Representative and your Senators (or find out who they are) via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224- 3121. You can reach them by mail at:

Please also contact the Chairmen and Ranking Members of both the House and Senate Judiciary committees.

Senate Judiciary committee:

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chairman
(202) 224-5251 (voice), (202) 224-6331 (fax)

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ranking Minority Member
(202) 224-4242 (voice)

House Judiciary committee:

Representative Henry Hyde (R-IL), Chairman
(202) 225-4561 (voice), (202) 225-1166 (fax)
Representative John Conyers (D-MI), Ranking Minority Member
(202) 225-5126 (voice), (202) 225-0072 (fax)

Please send copies of your correspondence to DRCNet, 2000 P St., NW, Suite 615, Washington, DC 20036, fax: (202) 293- 8344, e-mail: drcnet@drcnet.org.

Much of the information in this alert came from Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), (202) 822-6700, http://www.famm.org. For regular updates on the mandatory minimum situation, call the FAMM hotline at (703) 685-6860.

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