Monday, May 16, 2016

Alton Mills on 851 Enhancements / a Dumb "War"

When Alton Mills was 24-years old, he was given a life sentence. He was a "drug-runner" for two years, pulling in a whopping $300 a week on the South Side of Chicago. After two convictions resulted in state probation (for possessing less than 5 grams of crack), he was arrested, and federal prosecutors used his previous sentences in calculations to obtain a mandatory life sentence. The judge responded accordingly, but called the sentence “farcical” and “cruel and unusual.”

In a great editorial published at The Hill, Mills explains:
A first time non-violent drug offender tried in federal court could face a hefty mandatory minimum sentence of ten years in prison. If that person has a prior drug conviction and the prosecutor files a single sheet of paper called a “Section 851 Enhancement,” the sentence will double from ten to twenty years. Worse yet, as happened to me, if that person has two prior drug convictions – even for simple possession of a very small amount of drugs – and the prosecutor files an 851 enhancement, the sentence jumps from 10 years to life in prison. There is no parole in the federal system, so a person with a life sentence will ultimately die in prison. The 851 enhancement gives prosecutors – not judges – the sole power to decide whether or not someone will be condemned to die in prison. The 851 enhancement also gives prosecutors – not judges – the sole power to decide whether America will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to lock someone like me up for the rest of their life. 
Mills argues he was not a "violent person or serious repeat drug offender," yet - pay attention - the drug "kingpins" who testified against him "were released over a decade ago, having only served ten years." The drug ring's "leader" and second in command will be released in just three years. He writes:
I was the least responsible person in the group yet the one sentenced to the longest prison term. Was America safer with me locked away, while the kingpins and ringleaders gain their freedom? 
He concludes by noting "there are many others" similarly situated, "still incarcerated" who "deserve a second chance too." See Mills' powerful editorial in full here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Get this guy out of prison. Waste of taxpayers money for starters and it is hindering him from making a decent living.

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