How did we get such stiff federal meth laws?
Mostly ignorance, says this opinion editorial over at The Daily Caller, by a former Congressional staffer who helped write the harsh mandatory minimum laws for meth:
We drafted a bill to impose the same mandatory minimum sentences on meth trafficking that applied to crack. The bill was not approved by the full Senate, but we successfully attached it to an omnibus appropriations bill and it became law.
People can debate whether the effects of this law have been good or bad, but I can tell you that when we put the bill together, I did not know half of what I should have known. I did not know what the average sentence imposed on meth traffickers was at the time, whether those sentences were sufficient at deterring use, whether alternatives to prison might have been more effective at reducing recidivism, or how much these new, longer sentences would cost the federal government. These are things policymakers — or, at least, the staff they entrust to craft their legislation — should know before making national policy.The need for evidence-based sentencing policies is greater than ever. Conservatives in particular call for more accountability for a smaller and more efficient government, so how about starting with the way Congress creates sentencing laws?
Passing harsher sentences without adequate research, hearings, prison bed space and budget impact studies, and exploration of alternatives is begging for a bigger, fatter, more expensive, less effective justice system.