Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43), a Congressional leader in the fight to eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing, issued the following statement in reaction to President Barack Obama's announcement to commute prison sentences for eight people convicted of crack cocaine offenses:
"I am pleased that President Obama is commuting the prison terms of eight people convicted on federal crack cocaine charges. Each of these men and women served more than 15 years in prison and six were sentenced to life in prison under mandatory minimum sentencing laws.
According to the White House, in several cases, the sentencing judges expressed frustration that the law at the time did not allow them to issue punishments that more appropriately fit the crime.
"I have worked over the last two decades to bring about awareness and educate communities about mandatory minimums and sentencing disparities. Mandatory minimum sentences have not reduced drug use and have contributed to exploding prison populations throughout the United States. I have partnered with advocacy organizations and worked alongside courageous advocates such as Professor Charles Ogletree and Kemba Smith, who was sentenced to serve a mandatory minimum before she was commuted under the Clinton Administration.
"This past September, I reintroduced the Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act (H.R. 3088) to re-focus scarce federal resources to prosecute major drug kingpins and give courts and judges the authority to use greater discretion to make individualized determinations rather than being held to a stringent sentencing requirement prescribed by Congress. In August, Attorney General Holder announced that he would instruct federal prosecutors to forgo the pursuit of mandatory minimum sentences in certain cases involving low-level, non-violent drug offenders.
"Although the President's eight commutations and Department of Justice policy change on mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders are both important steps forward, we must work to change the law to permanently address this injustice. I look forward to continue working with the Administration and my colleagues in Congress to renew the call to action and fight for the full repeal of these substandard sentencing policies."