The Expansion Of Mandatory Sentencing Penalties For Federal Crimes

1778 Words Dec 17th, 2014 8 Pages
Introduction

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
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It was believed that stiff penalties would discourage people from using drugs and enhance public safety (“A Brief History,” 2014). However, that theory has failed and instead of less illegal drug activity, there are more people incarcerated. Over half of federal prisoners currently incarcerated are there on drug charges, a percentage that has risen 116 percent since 1970 (Miles, 2014). Mass incarceration is an ever growing issue in the United States and is the result of policies that support the large scale use of imprisonment on a sustained basis for social, political or economic purposes that have little to do with law enforcement. Drug policies stemming from the War on Drugs are to blame and more specifically, the mandatory minimum sentencing mandates on petty drug charges which have imprisoned millions of non-violent offenders in the last three decades. Since this declaration of war, the percentage of drug arrests that result in prison sentences (rather than probation, dismissal, or community service) has quadrupled, resulting in an unprecedented prison-building boom (Wyler, 2014). There are three main reasons mandatory minimum sentencing laws must be reformed: (1) They have proven to be cost ineffective fiscally and in crime and drug use reduction. (2) They perpetuate a racially segregated criminal justice system that destroys communities and discourages trust in the law. (3) They impose unduly harsh punishments on relatively low level offenders, leading to the

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