Is cocaine illegal in the US?

At one point, the guards locked Lawrence Garrison in the hole for three months for allegedly using the Internet. They found films on a hard drive at the Ohio prison factory where he recycled computers for 24 cents an hour. "During the investigation of the hard drive, I was in solitary confinement for 90 days. Then the guards found out that the data was already on it. We couldn't even access the network with the computer."

Garrison was exposed to the whims of prison officials for eleven years and eight months. He was originally sentenced to more than 15 years - because the alleged head of a drug ring testified that Garrison, his twin brother Lamont and twelve others were selling crack. Today the brothers are 40. They say they are innocent. They spent more than a quarter of their lives in prison.

Garrison's story has played out hundreds of thousands of times in America over the past few decades: A drug seller is caught, testifying against acquaintances as part of a deal with prosecutors. The law hits them hard.

Tens of thousands of people are seated, according to a census by the US Penal Determination Authority (USSC) mandatory sentences ab - those ridiculously high minimum drug sentences that have filled America's prisons. They prescribe certain long sentences for drug offenses. At least 5000 of them are non-violent petty dealers with no ties to organized gangs. They pay as if they were cartel bosses.

Since the 1970s, the number of prisoners has more than quintupled - to more than one and a half million people. The United States is home to five percent of the world's population, but a quarter of all prisoners worldwide are incarcerated in the "land of the free," which the national anthem conjures up. Almost a fifth of them have been fined for drug offenses.

The men (and a few women) sold marijuana, cocaine or crack - cocaine mixed with baking powder and heated. But are sentences like "15 years to life", once reserved for murderers and rapists, appropriate for a single drug deal? The majority of lawyers and politicians now believe that these men were punished too harshly. Nevertheless, they do not come free. The man who could help them is in the White House.

Activists are demanding a mass amnesty from the president. But Barack Obama has pardoned fewer people than his predecessors in the past few decades.

Mandatory sentencing often tore young men from their families for more than a decade - without having committed any acts of violence. The term stands for mandatory minimum sentences that judges must impose stubbornly according to tables: Anyone who sold more than five grams of crack had to jail for five to 40 years until 2010, even if it was his first crime. For more than 50 grams, judges were obliged to impose ten years to life, even if they personally thought the sentence was too severe.