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Why Mandatory Minimum Sentencing is Wrong and Bad

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/scales-small.jpg
scales of justice tilted to one side
Via Doug Berman and the Sentencing Law and Policy blog:

A report and editorial in the New York Times this week detail some of the unfortunate consequences of mandatory minimum sentencing, a policy in which judges are severely constrained in what sentences they are required to mete out to offenders. The editorial, titled "An Invitation to Overreach," discusses how mandatory minimums undermine the judicial process:

A Times report this week shows how prosecutors can often compel suspects to plead guilty rather than risk going to trial by threatening to bring more serious charges that carry long mandatory prison terms. In such cases, prosecutors essentially determine punishment in a concealed, unreviewable process -- doing what judges are supposed to do in open court, subject to review.
 

And mandatory minimums don't make sentences more even across different cases or for different types of people, an argument that is sometimes made. In fact they have made disparities worse, by transferring power from judges, who theoretically at least are neutral, to prosecutors, who effectively decide what the sentences will be because they determine what charges to bring:

These laws were conceived as a way to provide consistent, stern sentences for all offenders who commit the same crime. But they have made the problem much worse. They have shifted the justice system’s attention away from deciding guilt or innocence. In giving prosecutors more leverage, these laws often result in different sentences for different offenders who have committed similar crimes.
 

Other issues discussed by NYT including racial disparities in these laws' application, and their severe cost-ineffectiveness. Here's another reason to get rid of mandatory minimums: They are immoral and indecent.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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