Magazine article Reason

Free the Felons

Magazine article Reason

Free the Felons

Article excerpt

Kevin Ring was an attorney, a Republican congressional staffer, and a lobbyist before his role in the Jack Abramoff Indian casino scandal landed him in prison. Today he serves as the director of strategic initiatives at Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), a nonprofit that's been fighting for sentencing reform since 1991. In October, Ring sat down with Reason TV's Nick Gillespie. To see a video version of this interview, visit

Q: The Justice Department has just released 6,000 criminals from the federal prisons. What's going on with that?

A: More than a year ago the U.S. Sentencing Commission made the decision to reduce the drug guidelines. As a result, 6,000 people--46,000 over the course of the next 10 years--will get relief.

Q: Where did mandatory minimums come from?

A: We got mandatory minimums mostly in the '80s and '90s where people wanted to lock everybody up, because we did have high crime in the late '70s. And crime went down, so if you looked at those two data points, you would argue they have done well.

But the states started going broke--their corrections budgets were out of control. So you had places like Michigan, New York, Rhode Island repealing their mandatory minimums, and their crime continued to drop. So the feds have said: We now have evidence that we don't need to have these policies.

Q: FAMM recently conducted a poll.

A: We did a poll about five years ago and found that 60 percent supported repealing mandatory minimums. This poll showed 77 percent. And it's across the political spectrum. The biggest jump was among self-described conservatives. Among that group, a full 71 percent now support repealing mandatory minimums. That would have been unheard of 20 years ago.

And we recently had a group come out [called] Law Enforcement to Reduce Crime and Incarceration. …

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