Mandatory Minimums: A National Injustice Essay

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Mandatory Minimums: A National Injustice

Mandatory minimum drug sentencing is legislation passed by Congress in 1986 to create harsher punishments for drug offenders. These laws were created at a time when drug use was beginning to rise dramatically. This type of sentencing was meant to impose harsh, excessive sentences on any type of drug offense, despite other circumstances. While these laws seem good in theory, they were not well thought out. The creators and supporters did not consider the negative consequences of these strict laws. The injustices of federal mandatory minimum sentences have been present for years in the United States justice system. These laws are costly, unjust and excessive
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The population in prisons has radically increased. From 1980 to 1999 the prison population has tripled. As Eric Schlosser notes, “California alone holds more inmates in its jails and prisons than do France, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Singapore, and the Netherlands combined,” (qtd in Easterbrook 57). This, along with the excessive prison terms, has contributed to the rise in the Federal Prison budget.

Mandatory minimums are the most costly and least effective way to cut down on the use of drugs (Greider 12). While mandatory sentencing may seem like the best way at first, in the long run money would be better spent on standard sentencing and treatment programs. Mandatory minimums are more expensive, predominately because of the high costs of incarceration (Study). Rand’s Drug Policy Research Center performed a study on the best cost effective way to reduce drug use. Their results showed that every 1 million dollars spent on mandatory minimum sentencing helps to reduce cocaine consumption by 13 kilograms. When 1 million dollars was spent on the standard sentencing it would reduce cocaine consumption by 27 kilograms. If 1 million dollars were spent on treatment for heavy drug users it would help to reduce cocaine consumption by 100 kilograms (Caulkins). So it is obvious that mandatory minimums are a waste of money.

These mandatory