Yes, it's true, as this article from ex-federal prosecutor Jim Walden over at The National Law Journal shows. His beef with mandatory minimum sentences? They're being used to lock up too many of the wrong people:
Congress empowered the Department of Justice — through the creation of mandatory-minimum sentences — to end the careers of committed drug dealers. Second, the mandatory-minimum sentences were intended to be used against drug "kingpins" — the people at the upper echelons of large trafficking organizations, who make the most money, wield the most power and inflict the greatest violence and destruction. ... [But] mandatory-minimum sentences are used against even low-level members of identified trafficking groups in a way never intended by Congress. ...
In a recent case, U.S. v. Dossie, [Eastern District of New York Judge John] Gleeson called on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. to reform DOJ's inconsistent and irrational use of mandatory-minimum sentences in drug cases, reserving them for drug kingpins, as Congress intended. ... The specific case concerned — of course — a young, black, street-level dealer, who turned to drug distribution to support his habit. This did not stop DOJ from seeking to enforce a harsh mandatory-minimum sentence. [Gleeson] respectfully urged the attorney general to reform DOJ's policy, reserving the use of mandatory-minimum penalties for the managers and leaders of drug enterprises whom Congress intended to target.
Eric Holder should listen to John Gleeson.Hear, hear!