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

Abstract

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

Outlaw III, Lucius, Time for A Divorce: Uncoupling Drug Offenses From Violent Offenses in Federal Sentencing Law, Policy, and Practice (2016). AM.J. CRIM. L. (2016) Vol. 44:1. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3339008

Lucius Outlaw III (Contact Author)

Howard University School of Law ( email )

2900 Van Ness Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
United States

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