William Greider, the
brilliant Washington reporter for Rolling Stone, decided to investigate
the patterns of sentencing in federal courts across the land.
He of course knew that a key promise of our constitution was equal
protection under the law -- that similarly situated individuals
will be treated in similar ways. He also knew Congress had passed
several laws designed to improve the consistency of sentencing
in different parts of the country. He therefore was fascinated
by TRACFED data that showed the median sentence for an individual
convicted on drug charges in Florida North, Louisiana East and
North Carolina East was 120 months. This compares with 48 months
in Pennsylvania East, 18 months in California South and 12 months
in Arizona. Part of the explanation, of course, lies in the kinds
of cases being brought in the different districts. But on April
16, 1998, Rolling Stone fronted Greider's investigation, "Mandatory
Minimums, A National Disgrace."