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Mandatory Minimums: A National Injustice

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Brittany Kuzman Sister Marie Hubert Kealy Composition II 22 April 2005 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 in our society. First, the most obvious effect of mandatory minimums is what it costs our nation financially. The sentences of drug offenders are now extremely long, and keeping large numbers of people in jail for long amounts of time is very costly. The U.S. taxpayers are the ones suffering because they are the ones that are forced to pay for these increasing costs. ...read more.


Even though these facts and statistics are very shocking it is still difficult to really understand these laws' detrimental effects. The only way to truly comprehend the terrible effects is to know how it affects real people in real life situations. One example is Bill Stonner, a real estate developer in New York. He is currently serving ten years in prison, a mandatory minimum sentence for growing marijuana. His wife, Susan, knows that what her husband did was wrong and punishable, but the sentencing was not fair. She states, "But 10 years is a little excessive. It was his first offense. He had no prior records...now we have two children that miss their father terribly (Marks 1). This is just one of many examples of a family drastically affected by the extreme sentencing brought about by mandatory minimums. While Bill Stonner was in the wrong for growing drugs, he did not deserve ten years away from his family, and they are the real victims. These strict laws and system make sentencing dreadfully unjust. Mandatory minimums are practically set in stone, they do not allow the judges to use open judgment, which results in unjust punishment. ...read more.


When compared to sentencing for other crimes, mandatory minimums just seem ridiculous. The length of sentencing for a first time drug offender far succeeds those sentenced for more heinous crimes, like firearms, sexual abuse, assault, manslaughter, burglary and auto theft (Cruel). Under New York law, a person caught selling two ounces of cocaine will receive a 15 year minimum sentence, while a person convicted of rape will only serve a 5 year sentence (Easterbrook 4). Frank Bowman, a law professor at Gonzaga University, states "Long , mandatory sentences for significant drug traffickers are one thing, but rules like five years for possession of five grams of crack cocaine are morally abhorrent" (Easterbrook 4). Our nation truly needs to look over these strict laws and see what it is really doing to our society. Our government needs to look at the thousands of people affected by them. There are so many that have been prosecuted unfairly and do not deserve the harsh punishments that they have received. Those that are imposing these laws should hear the stories of those that they have imprisoned and see them as who they are, people, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and not just another statistic. ...read more.

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