Mandatory Minimum Sentencing

Topics: Mandatory sentencing, Drug Enforcement Administration, Heroin Pages: 6 (1964 words) Published: December 21, 2011
Each year in America many people received prison sentences for crimes that pose little if any danger or harm to our society. Mandatory Minimum Sentencing in the American Justice System has long been argued by both Lawmakers and the public. We will go over some of the history of mandatory minimum sentences as well as the many pros and cons to these types of sentences. Some examples of pros and cons are the overall effect on public safety, the effect on the offenders, the cost to taxpayers, the lack of discretion for Judge’s, and whether the law should be repealed. The history of Mandatory Minimum sentencing laws date back to the founding of this country, the idea of swift and certain punishment has always been popular among the public and lawmakers. However, throughout time it has never accomplished its intended goal to eliminate a particular crime. Today’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws require automatic prison terms for those who are convicted of certain federal and state crimes. Some acts we will go over are mostly those established throughout the 1980’s. During this time several acts came into effect and are known as the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, and the Omnibus Anti-Drug Abuse Act. Today many argue that these laws to harsh and need to be revised. The Comprehensive Crime Control Act came into effect in 1984. As stated by O’Bryant & Seghetti “This Act overhauled the federal sentencing system and revised bail and forfeiture procedures along with other federal practices” (O’Bryant & Seghetti, 2002). According to NCJRS “The bill's main sections cover bail, sentencing reform, forfeiture of assets, the insanity defense, penalties for drug law offenses, federal grants and other assistance in the area of criminal justice, and transfers of surplus Federal property to States or localities. Additional sections focus on labor racketeering, reporting regarding currency and foreign transactions, prosecution of certain juveniles as adults, wiretaps, witness relocation and protection, the acquisition of foreign evidence, and speedy trials” (NCJRS, 2011). The Omnibus Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 was signed by Ronald Reagan which according to “appropriated $1.7 billion to fight the drug crisis. $97 Million is allocated to build new prisons, $200 million for drug education and $241 million for treatment. The bill’s most consequential action is the creation of mandatory minimum penalties for drug offenses. Possession of at least on kilogram of heroin or five kilograms of cocaine is punishable by at least ten years in prison (For more breakdowns on sentencing and first time offenders see Attachment 1). In response to the crack epidemic, the sale of five grams of drugs leads to a mandatory five-year sentence” (, 2011). These laws have had little to no effect on drug crime; if we take a look at history, the decline in crime has not been substantial in fact it has gone up with the number of arrests and overall incarcerations (see Attachments 2 & 3). The drug arrest numbers show a large increase from about 400,000 in the mid 1980’s to more than 800,000 in 2008. Incarceration went up from less than 500,000 in the mid 1980’s to more than 2,300,000 in 2008 (Chromeswan, 2010). The increase of imprisonment is directly linked to mandatory minimum sentences, which might turn a person who potentially could be rehabilitated, into a career criminal due to harsh sentencing. With longer sentencing comes the risk of recidivism by lower risk offenders who are negatively affected by the prison system. According to Jeralyn, 2005 “A survey of several states with large numbers of youths in the adult system found increased recidivism among youths who are treated as adults. In other words, “Adult time for adult crime” is a failure” (Jeralyn, 2005). Who really suffers from these long sentences? It’s shown that most of the drug arrests are the lower level dealers and not the...
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