U.S. locks up far too many [Letter]

December 24, 2013

I became aware of the cruelty of mandatory minimum sentences in a case involving shotgun shells, so it's not only drug convictions that apply here ("President commutes terms for 8 offenders," Dec. 20). Nevertheless, when I learned the extent of the sentences handed out to the eight offenders President Barack Obama pardoned, I was shocked.

It's easy to see such injustice as racially motivated, but we need to look further. Our prison system has expanded immensely, and the "gulag archipelago" across the land is a disgrace to our nation. Incarcerating as many as possible is big business today and an enormous taxpayer burden for the rest of us. I've heard of Families Against Mandatory Minimums before, but they're scarcely on the radar. Americans always appear to care more about human rights violations everywhere else but here at home.

The stories of the eight who were pardoned by President Obama were horrifying. Three life sentences for a drug charge is off the charts justice-wise, and the others mentioned were equally draconian. This damage to human potential is staggering, and the suffering of innocent families is horrifying. America locks up far too many people way too long. It's time citizens of the "land of the free" speak out against this travesty. I certainly hope to, if I can find a way.

Rosalind Ellis Heid, Baltimore

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