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Mandatory Minimum Sentencing


Submitted By NMM2132
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Noah Messersmith
English Comp 101
Persuasive Essay First Draft

Did you know that due to mandatory minimum sentencing, the U.S. federal prison populations have almost grown 800 percent in the last three decades? What is mandatory minimum sentencing you ask? Well it is the set sentencing that is given to someone that the judge cannot shorten because it is a set time and they can’t shorten it, even for extenuating circumstances (“What Are Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws”). The U.S. Supreme Court should review the mandatory minimum sentences, weigh the positives and the negatives, look at the possible advantages and disadvantages, and then do what they need to do to enforce what they decide.
Although many people are for mandatory minimum sentences and think that they are fine and don’t need to be refined and changed, there are many reasons why they should be shortened. One reason is that it will make the prison system is overpopulated and it will make it a safer place for the inmates and for the prison guards. It will make it safer for the inmates because there won’t be as many inmates in there for long periods of time and they don’t have to worry about their safety as much because right now, there are so many inmates that the guards are losing some of their control over them. It will make it safer for the prison guards because they won’t have as many people to look over and they will feel like they have more power and authority because they won’t feel as overwhelmed. Another reason is that it will actually make the community feel safer for the citizens of that community because if there weren’t as many inmates in the prison as a result of receiving a mandatory minimum sentence, there won’t be as much of a chance that one of the inmates will break out and get out into the public and have a chance of harming someone. Another reason why it should be shortened is because the mandatory minimum sentences are too strict. If someone is given money and a package with drugs in it and is told to deliver it and that person needs the money and they do it without knowing what is in the package, they will receive the same penalty as someone who knows what is in the package and is trying to distribute the drugs. One of the mandatory minimum sentences is navigable water regulation violation and if someone breaks a navigable water regulation, they must serve 30 days in prison. Personally, that is a little excessive because even though they did commit the crime, 30 days in prison adds stress to everyone in the prison system and the community as a whole ("Federal Mandatory Minimums”).
There are a lot of arguments that go against the mandatory minimum sentences. One of the arguments is that there is no evidence that mandatory minimum sentences reduce crime like they were set in place to try and do. University of Minnesota Law Professor Michael Tonry said, “the weight of the evidence clearly shows that enactment of mandatory penalties has either no demonstrable marginal deterrent effects or short-term effects that rapidly waste away (Bernick and Larkin).” Another argument is that they can be unjust and harsh. According to Bernick and Larkin, there was a case were a single mother of four children, with no criminal history, who was financially in need and got offered $100 from a complete stranger to mail a package and she did without knowing what was in the package. It turns out that there were 232 grams of crack cocaine in that package, and even though the judge felt that the punishment was completely and utterly unjust and irrational, she was given a sentence of ten years in prison. The third argument is that mandatory minimum sentences eliminate a judge’s discretion to give a prison term that is lower than the statutory floor, and that makes case-specific information about the offender and the offense useless and can’t make the sentence shorter due to mandatory minimum sentences (Luna). The last argument is that the prison system is very dangerous due to the inmates that have received a mandatory minimum sentence and have to stay in prison as long. If they wouldn’t have as long as a mandatory minimum sentence, they wouldn’t be in prison for as long of a time period, therefore making it safer for the prison guards because they don’t have to look over so many inmates. There are many potential benefits of the mandatory minimum sentences being look over and shortened in some areas. One of the potential benefits from them being shortened is that the prison guards will be given a much safer environment because there won’t be as many prisoners to watch over due to the fact that the prisoners in the prison that were given a mandatory minimum sentence won’t be in the prison for as long. According to Biron, currently the federal prison system is running at 140 percent capacity which makes it a dangerous system for the guards, the prisoners and the community at large. Another potential benefit that will come because of shortened minimum sentences is that it will decrease the cost of housing prisoners and therefore lowering the price of taxes that taxpayers will have to pay. Biron states that of the Bureau of Prison’s yearly budget, one quarter of that budget is just for housing the prisoners that are there due to their mandatory minimum sentences. The last potential benefit is that it will make the community feel like they are safer. The citizens of the community will feel this way because they won’t have to worry as much about one of the inmates breaking out and potentially harming someone. Mandatory minimum sentences are necessary to an extent and need to be reviewed and revised because right now, the federal prison system is running at 140 percent capacity and that is not safe. There are many advantages of shortening the mandatory minimum sentences and it would help the community as a whole.

Works Cited

Bernick, Evan, and Paul Larkin. "Mandatory Minimum Sentences: Arguments for and
Against." The Heritage Foundation. N.p., 10 Feb. 2014. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.
Biron, Carey L. "Congress Eyes Action On Overhauling Mandatory Minimum Sentencing
Laws." Mint Press News. N.p., 10 Nov. 2013. Web. 14 Mar. 2014.
"Federal Mandatory Minimums." FAMM- Families Against Mandatory Minimums. N.p.,
25 Feb. 2013. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.
Luna, Erik. "Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Provisions Under Federal Law." Cato Institute.
N.p., 27 May 2010. Web. 14 Mar. 2014.
"What Are Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws." Legal Articles Criminal Defense- N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.

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