Anti- Mandatory Miniumums
Mandatory minimums are sentencing laws that are involved with binding prison terms of a particular time for people convicted of some specific federal and state crimes. Most of these crimes include possession of gun, pornography, economic crimes or drug offences. They are mainly considered as “quick-fix solutions” to seemingly petty crimes (Smith, 599). Anti-mandatory minimums, on the other hand, are laws or campaigns that oppose the minimum thresholds on how certain crimes are handled. They are the exact opposite of mandatory minimum laws.
For any judicial practice, there needs to be policies and guidelines that govern the day to day running of activities and how cases are handled. This is where the mandatory minimum and the anti-mandatory minimums come in. This begs the question, can justice be best served by having the legislative wing of the government assigning fixed penalties to each committed crime? Should the legislative wing instead leave the judges to carry out the sentences to the mitigating and the aggravating facts of each crime within the stipulated range? These questions leave a lot to be desired.
While mandatory minimums are court decisions that aim at setting judicial thresholds limited by law, anti-minimums tend to oppose this campaign. Characteristically, people convicted of particular crimes get punished based on some set minimum standards (McMillion, 100). The mandatory sentencing regulations and laws tend to vary from country to country and so are the anti-mandatory minimums.
The proliferation of the mandatory minimums in recent decades has forced the concerned parties in criminal justice system in the United States to reassess this question. The United States’ Supreme Court upheld a lengthy term of incarceration concerning mandatory amendment over the challenge that violate 18th Amendment that prohibit unusual and cruel punitive measures.
To date, public officers on both sides of the divide support the amendment of the federal mandatory minimum laws of sentencing. To this end, two bills that enjoy bipartisanly support the amendment of the federal mandatory minimums are still under consideration. Over the past few decades, federal trials have seen a virtually unlimited discretion of sentencing. This was a move that was immensely challenged and criticized by the influential members of the legal establishments in the 1960s.
The mandatory minimums have not in any way done away with the sentencing disparities since they have not eliminated the sentencing discretion. Instead, they have shifted the discretion from the jury to the prosecutors. In this regard, judges have the mandate to impose punishment as required by law. This leaves the prosecutors with no comparison as their obligation to surcharge an accused with violation of the law carries a mandatory minimum. As a matter of fact, the prosecutors’ discretion over what to charge an accused are unreviewable.
Scholars argue that unlimited judicial discretion is a better evil than the unbridled discretion of prosecutors. This is because the prosecuting team is never trained to sentence and thus lack the powers to exercise discretion is a rather transparent manner. The scholars further argue that prosecutors who benefit from successful convictions based on mandatory minimums lack the necessary and sufficient incentives to carry out their discretions as required. It is worth noting that mandatory minimum sentencing neither eliminates not stops crime. In light of this, is almost certain that evidence from any crime does not in any way show the mandatory minimums enacted on penalties. There are no apparent demonstrable marginal deterrent factors on the same.
These laws tend to bring sentencing disparities between the executing powers of judges and prosecutors. Judges are allowed to discern the crime committed and gave a fit punishment depending on the evidence presented while prosecutors are not allowed to give any other charges to a defendant if it a mandatory minimum crime. In such instances, the prosecutors tend to gain from successful convictions of mandatory minimums thus don’t have enough incentive to carry out their discretion as fit. Leaving the jury and judges to make these decisions on what kind of charges ought to be brought down to the convicted defendant. While in most cases, it is the prosecutors who end up dealing with such related cases. With that knowledge, how can we say that justice has been fully served?
Secondly, mandatory minimum sentences do not reduce crimes. If I know that if I am caught in possession of a small quantity of cocaine (probably as a low-level offender) and will only be sentenced to a minimum of two years, what will prevent me from doing it again? Or probably, the people I am working for can easily replace me with someone else to do the same job; thus not resolving the problem at all. Keeping in mind that prior criminal history is not considered especially in drug-related cases. What mostly matters is the amount of drug you have been found with, not even reasons or events that preceded the possession of the drug. Though if I get to sell out my supplier, there could be an appeal to a law court so that the sentence period can be reduced, which gives a chance to most drug-related convicts to turn a new leaf and help capture the drug barons.
These laws tend to waste a lot of time and money that would have been used to develop further the country’s economy. This is because a one-year sentence has the same deterrent effect as a five-year sentence thus the additional four years causing pain and wastage of energy and time of the convict. I am for the opinion that let each case be dealt accordingly based on the evidence and arguments laid out. Some of the people incarcerated don’t deserve to be there but because of the mandatory minimums placed and a legally bound prosecutor they were locked up for crimes they did not commit.
As much as the mandatory minimums tend not to lessen drug-related case, they do help to reduce assault, theft and gun-related cases as while the convict stays locked up, the public is safe. It also gives the convict time to reflect on his offences and change to be a responsible citizen. This is evident in the sharp decline in all categories of related crimes in the 1990s that was attributed to the introduction of these laws in the 1980s (Wallace, 9). Though, if we could go back to the charts and sketch again, I bet there will be an increase in the crime levels. It is human nature to get used to a certain set of laws till they know how to maneuver past them.
The fact that mandatory minimums are actually ‘mandatory’ and very severe is the main issue because it would sound at least reasonable if it were just minimums based on the crime committed and right evidence presented (Weich, 97). By these sentences being compulsory, it shadows the motive, the real truth and objective that would see the mothers of the punishment administered. For example, a man who has raped several ladies and children might end up getting arrested for the first time, but he will not be punished for the several old rape cases he has committed. Instead, he will be incarcerated for the sentence that a normal rape case would attract.
Last but not least, laws were placed to reduce the number of people locked up and see a possible reduction in crime rates. With the increased number of convicts, there is space, food and prison wardens that need considerations too (McMillion, 100). Thus the less the time people get to stay in there, the better it is for the availability of space. This argument is not even to be considered as it does not give even a bit of insight on the meaning of justice. In most cases, short sentences are given to individuals who don’t deserve it all, therefore, go back to the society and become more dangerous than they were before.
In conclusion, as much as these mandatory minimums were created to ensure a precise and organized way of solving the crimes committed, they still do not hold much meaning if the specific intents are not deeply analyzed and understood to administer correct and just verdicts. Plus at least there should be some room for adjustment in certain circumstances as different cases seem to be circumstantial. Also, district courts could be granted some bonus limited discretion to eliminate some severe undeserving sentences. This would particularly help in improving how people view the mandatory minimum sentences.
Smith, Michael L. “Mandatory Overtime and Quality of Life in the 1990s.” J. Corp. L. 21 (1995): 599.
Wallace, Henry Scott. “Mandatory minimums and the betrayal of sentencing reform: A legislative Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Fed. Probation 57 (1993): 9.
Weich, Ronald. “The Battle against Mandatory Minimums: A Report from the Front Lines.” Federal Sentencing Reporter 9.2 (1996): 94-100.
BIBLIOGRAPHY McMillion, Rhonda. “Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Comes under congressional Scrutiny.” ABA Journal (1993): 100.
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