Let me introduce a scenario. A man is convicted of trafficking 3 oz. of methamphetamine. How much prison time should he be sentenced to? 10 years? 25 years? 50 years? The man is sentenced to remain in prison for the rest of his life without a possibility of parole.
A life sentence for 3 oz. of meth? Walter White would be rolling in his grave! (Spoiler alert)
This is the problem with mandatory minimums, which requires offenders to serve a predefined term for certain crimes, commonly serious and violent offenses.
Judges are bound by law to uphold these minimum sentences, even though they might not agree with them. Mandatory minimums limit the judicial power of the judge and gives most of the power to federal prosecutors, who commonly threaten defendants who want to exercise their trial rights with charges that will carry longer sentences than the charges they will file if the defendants plead guilty.
This all started around the 1980’s, where President Reagan pushed for mandatory minimums for drug offenses. Everyone who committed the same crime would receive the same punishment. As time passed, congress began to create mandatory minimums for all sorts of crimes, which caused an influx of inmates in the prison system that has persisted today.
I understand that we all want to be safe, but mandatory sentences are not the solution! Drastically increasing the sentences of non-violent criminals does not help in the long-term, it simply ruins the life of the incarcerated individual. Most criminals that commit crimes often fall victim to two important factors: that they will not get caught and they do not know the consequences of their actions (aka how long of a prison sentence they will receive). If these criminals knew the duration of the sentences that would afflict them, they probably wouldn’t commit the crime in the first place.
Unfortunately, these criminals probably won’t take the time to sit down and research the mandatory minimum sentences for the crime that they are about to commit. I suggest to redirect more power and decision-making to judges, in order for them to play a more vital role in the fate of the defendant. Mandatory minimums increase the amount of time that inmates stay imprisoned away from their families and society in general, also making inefficient use of taxpayer dollars. The United States has the most amount of inmates imprisoned throughout the entire world, which could be drastically lessened if mandatory minimums were eradicated.
Until next time folks,