Federal Sentencing Guidelines And The Crime Rate Of The Twentieth Century

Federal Sentencing Guidelines And The Crime Rate Of The Twentieth Century

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In the 1980’s the crack epidemic was in full swing. To combat drug-related crime, congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act in 1986 (Edwards). For the first time mandatory minimum sentencing went into effect for the criminal possession of cocaine and other illegal drugs. Then in 1994, to combat violent crime, Bill Clinton signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (Edwards). New mandatory sentencing guidelines were recommended by the federal government. States that accepted the new guidelines were then awarded funds by the feds to build additional prisons and jails, and thus the prison-industrial complex was born (Schlosser).
The new federal sentencing guidelines led to the lowest crime rates of the twentieth century. However, they also caused the nation’s prison population to grow to new and previously unfathomable proportions. “Between 1970 and 2005, the nation 's prison population exploded by 700 percent and then continued rising to a peak in 2009 of 1.6 million prisoners,” (Glazer 4). The American Civil Liberties Union has estimated that now “one in 110 adults are incarcerated in a prison or local jail in the U.S.” (2016). The U.S. has the largest prison population in the world. Recent statistics have shown that is approximately 2.3 million people are now living behind bars.
While the problems associated with automatic mandatory minimum sentences are complicated, there are many important factors at play, some of which include the privatization of prisons in the U.S.; the strictness of current safety valve laws; and politicians taking on the roles of judge, jury, and executioner. Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one,” (Wikiquote). I...


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...non-violent and low risk criminals were caught in the fray. A recent study reports, “84 percent of Americans agree that some of the money that we are spending on locking up low-risk, nonviolent inmates should be shifted to strengthening community corrections programs like probation and parole,” (FAMM).
A majority of the American public are opposed to mandatory minimum sentencing. The sentencing safety valve is a good example of the organic nature of law. The safety valve is the answer to the consequences unleashed by the federal guidelines of the 80’s and 90’s. Too many low-risk non-violent offenders have already been forced to waste their potential behind bars. The majority of tax payers have had enough. Our politicians must accurately represent the majority by modifying the sentencing safety valve to include individuals who have the opportunity to be rehabilitated.

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