Time for A Divorce: Uncoupling Drug Offenses From Violent Offenses in Federal Sentencing Law, Policy, and Practice
AM.J. CRIM. L. (2016) Vol. 44:1
21 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2019
Date Written: 2016
One issue that is lost in the current discussions about criminal justice reform is how throughout federal sentencing law and practice, drug offenses are pervasively linked to violent offenses for the purposes of lengthening prison sentences. Throughout federal criminal statutes, sentencing guidelines and policies, drug crimes and violent crimes are not only treated equally, but also interchangeably to increase a defendant’s prison sentence. This interchangeable equivalence is ingrained in federal criminal statutes and sentencing guidelines providing some of the lengthiest terms of imprisonment. If we are truly serious about reducing our over-reliance on imprisonment and confronting the disparities tied to the “war on drugs” and federal drug policies, then an action-item that must be on the agenda is de-coupling violent conduct with non-violent drug conduct for sentencing purposes. This article discusses one such policy – the career offender guideline – as an emblematic example of the wayward approach of equating drug offenses with violent offenses.
Keywords: drugs, federal sentencing, career offender
JEL Classification: K14, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation