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Pros And Cons Of Mandatory Minimum Sentencing

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Mandatory minimum sentencing is the practice of requiring a predetermined prison sentence for certain crimes. The most notable mandatory minimums are the ones implemented in the 70’s and 80’s, hoping to combat the rising drug problem. Mandatory minimum sentencing has existed in the United States nearly since its very birth, with the first mandatory minimums being put into place around 1790. Recently, as the marijuana laws of many states have scaled back in severity, the issue of mandatory minimums has caused controversy in the US. There are two distinct sides to the argument surrounding mandatory minimum sentencing. One group believes we have a moral obligation to our country requiring us to do no less than lock up anyone with illegal drugs…show more content…
In my eyes there are three main questions to be asked about mandatory minimum sentencing: For one, are mandatory minimum sentences fair? I do not mean this in the “Johnny got two cookies and I only got one” type of fair. When referring to fair, I am asking if we are giving our country’s judicial system the freedom to exercise all of their privileges and powers. Also, if compared to less heinous and more heinous crimes, are the mandatory minimums surrounding drug offences unjustly strict? The second question: What is the impact of mandatory minimum sentences on the criminal justice system and jails as a whole? Are other problems being created by mandatory minimums? Finally, I’d like to know what alternatives to mandatory minimums exist, and if they are more or less effective. It is very important to be able to look at angles of this issue and reassess our approach. It would make a lot of sense to change how criminal justice system if it is using outdated and ineffective…show more content…
One staggering number that comes up when researching mandatory minimums is the percentage of people in federal prison for drug offences now, versus before mandatory minimums for drug offences were put in place. It is reported that as of now sixty percent of the federal prison population is made up of drug defendants (prisonpolicy.org), this is twenty two percent higher than it was before mandatory minimums. Note, this only reflects a growth in inmate population, not a reduction in crime or drug use. Another number relating to the results of mandatory minimums is the amount of people in jail who desperately need help. “Some 80 percent of the men and women behind bars – some 1.4 million individuals – are seriously involved with drug and alcohol abuse.”(prisonpolicy.org). This is a sad statistic, especially considering that substance and alcohol abuse are now regarded as mental illness. It seems that instead of incarcerating these low level criminals we should help them. The cost of keeping these people in prison is not cheap either. The Vera Institute of Justice reported that forty states spent thirty nine billion dollars in one year on prisons and prisoners, a yearly average of $31,286 per prisoner (Vera.org). This is a huge amount of money being used to incarcerate people who haven’t even been involved in violent crimes. In several graphs posted
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