Criminal justice reform has been a hot topic in politics for years, and is becoming a big theme among the candidates vying for the Democratic Party nomination in the 2020 presidential election. Many of them have, among other proposals, called for an end to mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses.

Mandatory minimum sentence guidelines for people convicted of federal drug crimes were first implemented in the 1980s as part of an effort to fight drug abuse and the crimes related to it. Critics say the sentencing requirements have contributed to a ballooning of the nation’s incarcerated population, which has grown almost 800% since 1980, according the American Bar Association.

While the United States has just 5% of the planet’s population, it has nearly 25% of the world’s prisoners. Many federal prisons are overcrowded and many people are serving long stretches behind bars after being convicted of relatively minor, nonviolent offenses.

In an age when the political parties hardly ever agree on anything, there has been broad support for the idea that incarceration rates are out of hand and need to be reformed. The federal government has enacted several measures over the past few years to roll back mandatory minimum sentencing, including one reform bill passed last year. Still, critics say the reforms have not gone far enough.

To a person who is accused of federal drug crimes, all this talk of policy and reform can seem very distant. The law is slow to change, but the damages to one’s freedom, finances and future prospects can be immediate after a person has been charged with a crime.

Everyone accused of a crime deserves a defense. People accused of federal drug crimes should seek out help from a criminal defense attorney with experience in federal drug crime defense.