Against Mandatory Minimums

1200 Words 5 Pages
Several decades ago the United States government created a set of mandatory minimum sentencing laws to help fight crime in the country. These laws require that judges sentence offenders of certain crimes for at least a minimum amount of years. Mandatory minimum sentences were created for a variety of crimes, but Robert NeSmith, editor-in-chief of the Law and Psychology Review of the University of Alabama Law School writes that the majority of federal prisoners is incarcerated for drug related cases pertaining to mandatory minimums (NeSmith 254). The system of mandatory minimum drug sentencing currently enforced by the United States federal government has failed to provide negative reinforcement and proven ineffective in assigning just punishment …show more content…
First, mandatory minimums limit judicial discretion and constitute too general a punishment for similar offenses without consideration of the different circumstances surrounding each case. Evan Bernick, Assistant Director of the Center for Judicial Engagement at the Institute for Justice and former Visiting Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and Paul Larkin, Senior Legal Research Fellow for the Heritage Foundation and former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote that “statutes imposing mandatory minimum sentences result in arbitrary and severe punishments that undermine the public’s faith in America’s criminal justice system”. To illustrate their point, Bernick and Larkin bring up the case of a financially desperate single mother who experienced the severity of this sentencing practice. The woman received a 10 year prison sentence after a stranger paid her to mail a package that she didn’t know contained 232 grams of crack cocaine. She had no previous criminal history (Bernick and Larkin). Such an occurrence is immoral and cannot be tolerated. Without accounting for the details of each case, mandatory minimum laws automatically sentence offenders a certain amount of years. This system is not effective in distributing just and deserved sentences. Only a qualified federal judge can study …show more content…
There are aspects of mandatory minimums which suggest a racial imbalance in the sentencing of prisoners. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act created the “100 to 1” disparity for crack versus powder cocaine abuse necessary for minimum sentencing. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “possession of five grams of crack cocaine would mandate the same minimum sentence as 500 grams of powder cocaine” (“U.S. Supreme Court Weighs...”). Interestingly, the ACLU also writes that in recent years “African Americans constituted more than 80 percent of those sentenced to federal prison for crack cocaine offenses, even though two-thirds of crack cocaine users are white or Hispanic” (ACLU). While the 100 to 1 ratio was reduced in 2010 with the passing of the Fair Sentencing Act, there is still a significant difference for requirements on crack versus powder offenders (“The right choices”). Mandatory minimums limit judicial discretion and give a heightened amount of power to prosecutors, who can decide whether to file formal charges against the apprehended offenders. The fact that the majority of crack offenders sentenced are African Americans despite representing a minority of those who use the drug exhibits racially discriminatory tendencies by prosecutors in the sentencing of criminals. Once again, returning to judges the supervised discretion to sentence criminals would

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