About MAMM

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(Disclaimer: Mississippi Against Mandatory Minimums is not a real organization. It was created by four students for a class at Dartmouth College.)

Mississippi Against Mandatory Minimums is a non-profit organization committed to proposing legislation to reform Mississippi’s mandatory minimum laws. We seek to reform mandatory minimum sentencing laws, expand drug courts, and eliminate mandatory minimums for all non-violent drug cases.

At MAMM, we believe in the power of grassroots action to deliver real social change. We hope to educate and mobilize Mississippians to demand justice in our state.Mississippi has the second-highest incarceration rate in the United States. While the average state prison sentence for drug sales is 5.7 years, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that Mississippi’s average sentence for drug sales is 10.4 years. At a time when our state faces severe budget difficulties, mandatory minimum sentences crowd our prisons without enhancing public safety. Approximately 50 percent of Mississippi’s prisoners were convicted of non-violent drug offenses, according to Chris Epps, the Commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

Please see our proposed legislation page for more information about MAMM’s legislative goals.

Featured Stories

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Atiba Parker

At age 24, Atiba Parker, a resident of Columbia, Mississippi, was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. When Parker stopped taking his medication consistently, he began to self-medicate, using marijuana to help cope with the hallucinations, paranoia, mania, and depression that characterized his illness. In order to fund this habit, Parker began selling small amounts of crack cocaine. In 2006, Parker was caught selling .23 grams of crack for $40. Due to two prior nonviolent marijuana possession charges, this small drug sale resulted in a 42-year prison sentence.

Vincent Hudson

In February 2007, Vincent Hudson was pulled over for speeding while driving with his brother near Louisville, Mississippi. Aside for the speeding charge, Vincent’s brother, Hillute, was arrested for driving with a suspended license and for possession of several types of drugs. Vincent was arrested for possessing an open container of beer in the car, and was ultimately charged with possession of cocaine after barely detectable amounts of the drug were found on his clothes by tests conducted by the Mississippi Crime lab. Even though a forensic scientist from the Crime Lab testified that the cocaine found on Vincent was “barely sufficient to determine identification,” because Vincent had two prior felony convictions, which were more than 20 years old, he was sentenced to life without parole under state mandatory minimum requirements. The Mississippi Supreme Court recently reversed Vincent’s sentence, stating that the evidence put forth during his trial was insufficient to convict him.

Our Communities

Mandatory minimum sentencing just not only affect the individuals who receive an inappropriate or unreasonable sentence. It affects these individuals’ children, parents, extended families and friends, and on a larger scale, entire communities. Communities’ most adversely affected by our current sentencing policies are largely urban and predominantly minority areas.

Spotlight on: Jackson, Mississippi

Mississippi is systematically under-investing in its public education system and running budget deficits as a result of the mass incarceration of our state’s citizens, beginning with our youth. Our state spent twenty-four times more on juvenile detention than on education in 2007.[1] Our failing education system is reflected in our prison population. Half of Mississippi prisoners never received a high school diploma and the average inmate reads on a sixth-grade level.[2] The relationship between failing schools and mass incarceration, known as the school-to-prison pipeline, is nowhere more apparent than in our capital city of Jackson.

The mass incarceration of youth is dramatic in Jackson. Over the past several years, the city’s public schools have acquired an increasing number of armed security guards and adopted stricter punishments for behavioral infractions, both of which increase the likelihood that students will find their way into the criminal justice system. In Jackson public schools, 96 percent of arrests made in the 2010-2011 school year were for minor offenses.[3] Middle and high-school students are regularly sent to juvenile detention facilities for trivial infractions, including talking back to teachers, violating the dress code, distracting other students, or other behavioral problems. Furthermore, according to a recent report by a coalition of Mississippi criminal justice reform advocates, the punishments show a dramatic bias against African American students. More than three black students were suspended from school during 2009-2010 for every one white student.[4]

Under-performing schools and incarceration are intimately tied and concentrated in certain poorer and predominantly minority areas of Jackson. Mississippi taxpayers are paying $25 million per year to imprison people from only two zip codes in the city. [5]

The map below shows the number of adults in prison (per 1,000 residents) in Jackson. The more red in color the region, the higher the incarceration rate. The map illustrates how incarceration is concentrated in certain neighborhoods in the city. Linking this to education, the map shows that the lowest-performing schools in the city are located in neighborhoods with the highest rates of incarceration, while the highest-performing schools exist in areas with the lowest rates of imprisonment.

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[1] Matthew W. Burris, “Mississippi and the School to Prison Pipeline,” Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race (Vol. 3, 2011), pg 20, http://blogs.law.widener.edu/wjler/files/2012/01/STPP_Burris.pdf, last accessed May 6, 2013.

[2] JB Clark, “The State of Our Schools – Lacking Literacy: Poor readers populate state’s prisons,” Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, http://djournal.com/view/full_story/21763963/article-The-State-of-Our-Schools—Lacking-literacy–Poor-readers-populate-state%E2%80%99s-prisons?instance=home_news_right, last accessed May 28, 2013.

[3] Ronni Mott, “Incarceration Over Education,” The Jackson Free Press, January 16, 2013, http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/news/2013/jan/16/incarceration-over-education/, last accessed May 28, 2013.

[4] Mott, The Jackson Free Press.

[5] Benjamin Todd Jealous, Roslyn M. Brock, Alice Huffman, “Misplaced Priorities: Over-Incarcerate, Under-Educate,” The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, April 2011, http://www.slu.edu/Documents/professional_studies/prison_program/Misplaced%20Priorities%20NAACP%20Report%202011.pdf, last accessed May 26, 2013.

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