The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Hears Justice Roundtable’s Arguments Against Mandatory Minimum Sentences
On March 3rd, 2006, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights heard arguments against the use of mandatory minimum sentences in the United States. The panel of witnesses, moderated by Nkechi Taifa, Sr. Policy Analyst for the Open Society Policy Center, presented compelling arguments on why the use of mandatory minimum sentences is racially discriminatory and inhumane.

March 3, 2006

On March 3rd, 2006, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights heard arguments against the use of mandatory minimum sentences in the United States. The panel of witnesses, moderated by Nkechi Taifa, Sr. Policy Analyst for the Open Society Policy Center, presented compelling arguments on why the use of mandatory minimum sentences is racially discriminatory and inhumane.

The panel of witnesses consisted of the Honorable Patricia Wald, testifying on behalf of the American Bar Association (ABA); Professor Charles Ogletree, Founder and Executive Director of Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute on Race and Justice, testifying on behalf of the Justice Roundtable; Ms. Kemba Smith, an individual who was directly impacted by mandatory minimum sentencing; and Attorney Gay McDougall, Executive Director of Global Rights and the first United Nations Independent Expert on Minority Issues. The four witnesses were joined by two expert resource persons – Marc Mauer, Executive Director of the Sentencing Project and Eric Sterling, President of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation and former counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during the passage of the mandatory minimum laws.

The Commissioners were Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, First Vice President and Rapporteur on the United States; Florentin Melendez, Second Vice President and Rapporteur on the rights of persons deprived of liberty; and Clare K. Roberts, Commissioner and Rapporteur against racial discrimination. The U.S. government was represented by the State Department, which declined to make a statement. The Commissioners appeared very interested in the witnesses’ testimonies and expressed interest in follow-up.

To read full testimonies please click the PDF links .

To view more information on the IACHR please click here.

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