Within the next few months a 17 or 18 year old will do something stupid enough to be convicted for drug trafficking in Queensland. We like to pretend otherwise, but drugs are almost as commonplace to the party scene for our young people as alcohol has been for their parents. However drugs are illegal and politicians keep ramping up the penalties to buy popular support by appearing to be ‘tough on crime.’

The Queensland Parliament will shortly pass a law which requires anyone sentenced to serve time in prison for drug trafficking to serve 80% of their term of imprisonment in jail. This will be the mandatory minimum. The courts will have no discretion to impose a lesser term. Some will think that this type of punishment is fitting, and it may be in the worst case scenario of an organised crime boss being again convicted for making millions by ruthlessly pumping kilograms of drugs onto the streets of Queensland. The problem is that the same law will put a 17 year old in an adult jail for 80% if his or her term of imprisonment for selling ecstasy pills in a nightclub over a few weeks to impress their mates and maintain their own addiction. They cannot escape this rule despite their youthful immaturity or because they were manipulated by others.

Politicians claim that mandatory imprisonment will deter offenders. If it did we may
not be so concerned because few would be caught up in them. But tragically the law will ensnare someone who is today a 16 or 17 year old Queensland school student believing they are bulletproof and out to make a quick buck. Once they are sentenced to serve actual time in prison, the 80% rule will rob them of a second chance, time to ‘grow up’ or prove themselves away from the influence of their peers – and their future opportunities will instead be shaped by those they meet in prison.

Please share this story with other students and young people as widely as possible.   If it deterred someone from drug trafficking that would be great. But when the injustice of this mandatory regime starts destroying lives our politicians must be held accountable for their populist policies.