The Families That Roared

Did you see the recent Essence article about Dorothy Gaines? Or the Mademoiselle piece on Kellie Mann? Both women were convicted of minor nonviolent drug offenses. Both were sentenced, under mandatory minimum laws, to more than 10 years in prison—no parole, no time off for good behavior. Both are key figures in the growing movement led by Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), a national organization working to repeal federal and state mandatory sentencing laws that remove judicial discretion. FAMM does not argue that crime should go unpunished, but that the punishment should fit the crime.

In 1997, FAMM worked with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune to publish an explosive investigative report on how federal drug laws affect women. They found that many women are serving prison sentences of 10 to 20 years or more; longer than the men who organize, lead, or supply drug operations. The more culpable male offenders are encouraged to cut deals based on their information and then serve shorter sentences.

Both Dorothy Gaines and Kellie Mann were released by presidential pardon. Since 1987, sentencing disparities have increased the number of women in U.S. prisons fourfold. Women drug offenders make up two-thirds of all female inmates.

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"The Families That Roared"
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