Minimum Sentencing Should Not Be Mandatory Essay

Minimum Sentencing Should Not Be Mandatory Essay

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Since the 1980s, the federal prison population of the US has grown from 24,640 to 214,149 (Population Statistics 1). This figure may appear miniscule given the fact that there are over 300 million people residing within the United States. However, this is just one figure of many; currently, the United States holds the largest prison population total out of any country at 2,217,000 (Prison Population Total 1). This major increase in incarceration is not the product of a higher crime rate, but due to the creation of sentencing guidelines that followed the enactment of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. These guidelines require that certain federal and state crimes result in a set minimum of years in prison. The minimum sentencing guidelines are inflexible and prevent judicial discretion. Criminals are deterred from pleading guilty because minimum sentencing guarantees a harsh punishment, which in turn costs time and money by prolonging court cases. Minimum sentencing should not be mandatory because it is unconstitutional, does not deter crime, and is not cost-effective.
Minimum sentencing is unconstitutional because it conflicts with Amendment VI and Amendment VIII of the US Constitution. Amendment VI states, “in all criminal prosecutions, the defendant is entitled to an impartial jury, witnesses for and against him, and an attorney” (US Const. amend. VI). Minimum sentencing violates an individual’s right to a jury trial by requiring prerequisite criminal charges to result in a higher adjustment of the guideline range, which in consequence results in a longer prison sentence for the individual (Bowman 5). In United States v. Booker, Booker was charged for the possession and intent of dealing at least 50 grams of crack cocaine. Un...


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...cent, and medium-security facilities at 44 percent (Samuels 2). Rather than lowering the crime rate in the US, minimum sentencing has created an oversized prison population.
Not only has the prison population increased exponentially, but maintaining such large populations comes at a cost. From 1990 to 2012, State spending on corrections increased by over 300 percent (Urahn & Caudell-Feagan 10).On average, it costs nearly $29 thousand to incarcerate a single person in federal prison per year (Annual Determination 1). In 2013, the Bureau of Prisons budget consisted of $6.9 billion, nearly 26 percent of the Department of Justice’s budget, a figure that was predicted by the President’s 2013 fiscal year to reach $7.4 billion by 2017 (Horowitz 8). A total of $53.2 billion tax dollars were allocated towards State correction expenditures in 2012 (State Expenditure Report 60).

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