Lower the Bars
by The Milton Measure on Friday, February 20th, 2015
The United States has the second highest incarceration rate in the world, with 707 out of 100,000 citizens being imprisoned each year; the only higher rate belongs to miniscule Seychelles at 868 prisoners per 100,000 people. Existing on both a federal and state level, the minimum mandatory sentences in place across this nation have a very real effect on this incarceration rate. Mandatory minimum sentences can vary from state to state, meaning that the punishment for a crime can be more or less severe, depending on the state.
This inequality between states raises the question: are mandatory minimum sentences a virtue of our justice system? I believe that mandatory minimum sentences, with a couple of exceptions, are detrimental to justice. An individual case simply should not be put into the same box as all other similar cases.
Mandatory minimum sentences do not actually remove subjectivity from the system. Instead of the judge having discretion, the prosecution has power in deciding which charges to bring against the defendant. In this problematic system, the clear bias of the prosecution affects the possible charges—and therefore, minimum sentences—for the defendant. In practice, mandatory minimum sentences often lead to people’s facing more time than they possibly should.
Mandatory minimum sentencing is problematic because the United States already has such a high incarceration rate. Our prisons are already overflowing with prisoners, and longer sentences will simply lead to more prisoners. More and more taxpayer money is spent keeping people in jail based on the whims of whoever determined the minimum sentences. In addition, our prison system is based around punishment rather than rehabilitation. Instead of worrying about minimum sentences, our nation should work to find solutions to rehabilitate convicts and help them re-enter society. After all, today’s convicts are tomorrow’s neighbors and co-workers. A system that is focused on rehabilitation can ease crime rates better than any minimum sentence. First time offenders could enter programs designed to reduce the amount of repeat offenders in prison. These programs could include drug rehabilitation, counseling, and vocational training.
Instead of mandatory minimum sentences, judges should decide necessary punishments based on recommendations from their state and their own personal discretion. Mandatory minimum sentences are too damaging to our justice system to be continued if we have viable options, such as prisoner rehabilitation and reform programs that do not overfill our prisons nor sentence our citizens to exceptionally harsh punishments.
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=6876