To many people, the case of Karen Blakney has epitomized the problem withmandatory sentencing laws.

Blakney, a recovering crack addict and single mother of nine, faced a10-year minimum sentence for cooking cocaine in exchange for money to feedher habit. A federal jury in the District convicted her in 1992. But thetrial judge believed she only deserved 30 months in prison. Twice an appealscourt overruled the judge and ordered him to send Blakney away for a decadeinstead.

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