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Overcrowded Prisons Lead To Campaign For Ending Mandatory Sentences

By Jennifer Lindgren CBS 11 News | CBSDFW.COM
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NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS)  – Critics of mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent offenders say it leads to overcrowding in prisons, including here in North Texas.

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines put into place in the 1980s included mandatory minimum sentences judges must issue for specific crimes, usually drug related.

During the same time in the last 25 years, U.S. prison populations have quadrupled.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the three main correctional institutions in the Metroplex are above capacity.

Seagoville Federal Correctional Institution is 57 percent above capacity; Carswell Federal Medical Center is 74 percent above capacity; and Fort Worth Federal Correctional Institution is 25 percent above capacity.

Now lawmakers from both sides of the political isle are calling for reform.

Last week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) pitched new legislation on Capitol Hill.

Dr. Frederick Haynes, III, Senior Pastor at Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, is ready for change.

“As far as I’m concerned, we’ve seen families destroyed. We’ve seen communities drained of great potential,” Dr. Haynes said.

Dr. Haynes looks not at the numbers, but at the people and families affected.  He knows many in his church community.

Studies show of the people in prison for drugs, a disproportionate number are black or Latino.

“I’ve seen people get anywhere from 10 years to life in prison, minimum,” Dr. Haynes said.

Dr. Haynes is Chairman of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, a group of pastors who for the past three years, have focused on the issues of mass incarceration and the criminal justice system.

“We’re calling for judges to have the freedom to case by case, see what would be appropriate in the particular instance. Also we are especially asking that treatment be afforded to those who cannot afford it,” Dr. Haynes said.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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