Negative Consequences of Mandatory Sentencing
In recent years several mandatory sentencing laws have been put into motion. The original goals of the mandatory sentencing laws were to stop repeat offenders and to exhibit a "get tough attitude" on crime. These laws have not been working as intended, instead mandatory sentencing has led to some unfortunate consequences. Some of these consequences are overcrowding in prisons and less prison based rehabilitation. Mandatory sentencing laws do not narrowly target major drug traffickers.
Today there are 100 separate federal mandatory minimums located in 60 different criminal statues. An example of mandatory sentencing is New York's Rockefeller laws which order terms extending from 15 years to life for nonviolent drug offenses. Five years ago in California the "three strikes " law was passed sending people away for 25 years to life for a third felony conviction. The "three strikes" law is overcrowding prisons and weighing down the courts with appeals. Under the "three strikes" laws a violent first time violent offender may be let out of jail to accommodate a third time nonviolent offender. In 1993, 71% of all federal prisoners were non-violent offenders and in 1994, 92% of federal prisoners were non-violent offenders. The 1994 Crime Act requires offenders to serve up to 85% of their sentence. (Casa) The "War on Drugs" is nothing but a war on the "weak and those unable to defend themselves" (Cose). 95% of non-violent drug offenders who are getting out of prison are getting little to no redirection. As many as 75% of drug offenders released from prison will re-offend and be back in jail within four years.
Non-violent drug addicts are getting more time than murderers. These people have neither the desire nor the ability to become productive members of society. Rehabilitation programs are becoming scarce; the public money for these programs is being diverted into money for additional beds for the bulging prison population.
Mandatory minimums are resulting in a losing war on drugs and over crowding in the prison system. As of 1999 almost 1.8 million Americans are incarcerated. Seven times as many women since 1980 are incarcerated largely due to new mandatory sentences. (Cose) This means that thousands of children will be without mothers, and put into the system. America has reverted to locking up their problems. Overcrowding is not only a problem for the Department of Corrections (DOC) but also for the inmates. Overcrowding means less space and more violence between inmates. Overcrowded prisons also means overcrowded county jails, where state offenders will be held. Prisoners often complain of unbearably high noise levels, inadequate exercise and poor ventilation. This 1.8 million figure gave the "Land of the Free" the second...