The Expansion Of Mandatory Sentencing Penalties For Federal Crimes

1778 Words Dec 17th, 2014 8 Pages

The expansion of mandatory sentencing penalties for federal crimes (especially non-violent drug crimes), which have helped catalyze the increase in the prison population, is an aspect of the criminal justice system that must be reformed. Public officials on both sides of the political spectrum support amending federal mandatory sentencing laws and in July of 2013 Congressman Richard Durbin (D-IL) introduced The Smarter Sentencing Act of 2014. This legislation would lessen mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes from five, ten, and twenty year mandatory minimums to two, five, and ten years respectively, effectually reducing prison costs and populations. It would also make the Fairness in Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduces sentencing disparities for crack and powder cocaine from 100:1 to 18:1, retroactive. The biggest problem with mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug offenses, which the bill aims to remedy, is the imposition of excessive and arbitrary punishments causing a massive prison population boom.


Ever since President Nixon declared the War on Drugs in June 1971 and President Reagan expanded this war to unprecedented proportions in 1980 (including sweeping reforms to drug sentencing), the prison population has skyrocketed. The nearly 800% increase in the prison population over the past 30 years is what is commonly referred to as mass incarceration and with approximately 2.4 million people imprisoned in the nation’s prisons and…

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