Problems with Mandatory Minimum Sentencing
Mandatory minimums are laws which require automatic prison terms for certain crimes. These laws were passed to ensure that dangerous criminals served long prison sentences. However, there are a number of concerns with mandatory minimums.
The biggest complaint about mandatory minimum sentences is that they are unfair. A judge does not have the authority to tailor the sentence to the specific facts. Therefore, someone who was an unimportant part of a drug conspiracy is stuck with the same minimum sentence as someone who was central to the crime.
Another problem is that these sentences end up being used against a lot of nonviolent offenders. Studies show that mandatory minimum sentencing in federal court is used most often in drug cases. However, the vast majority of federal drug defendants are nonviolent.
Finally, many people feel that this policy leads to prison overcrowding. Many offenders who may have otherwise received short sentences, or even avoided prison, are stuck with these mandatory sentences. As prison populations have grown quickly, many judges and lawyers have argued that mandatory minimums should be abolished to fight this problem.
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Last Modified: 08-10-2009 11:52 AM PDT