One of the major reasons that prisons have overcrowded is that crime control strategies and legislative changes have meant longer sentencing (Mcshane, 2008). A study in 2006 showed the change in the State and Federal prison population from 1990 to 2005. In 1990 there was a total of 773,124 inmates. In 2005, that number increased to 2,186,230 (Harrison & Beck, 2006). The three- strikes laws has a great impact on the overpopulation of our prison systems because it means more life sentencing with a lesser possibility of parole for most offenders. The three-strike laws are a form of the Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws.
The majority of the mandatory minimum sentencing laws apply to drug crimes. These laws limit the judicial discretion of all judges on drug cases. Individuals’ who are convicted of particular crimes must be punished in accordance to the Mandatory minimums laws which state that at least the minimum sentence is required. This law weakens the Criminal Justice System in many ways. The law prevents judges from fitting the punishment and or sentence according to the individual and the circumstances of the crime committed. Due to the law’s limitation to the discretion of judges, federal and state prisons are overcrowding at the cost of taxpayers.
Before this law, general sentencing of a convicted individual was decided by a judge after the individual has plead guilty or if found guilty in trial. The general sentencing was decided based on the crime and the circumstances, the punishment was intended to be proportional to the crime committed (Champion, 2008). Judges were able to use their discretion on sentencing in accordance to the federal and state sentencing guidelines. However, when the Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws came into effect, judges have a much less discretion on sentencing/punishment. By law if the crime is subject to the Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Law, the judge has a legal obligation to impose at least the minimum sentence.
According to Broderick (1998), Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws impose sentencing based on the statutory description of a crime without factoring in any circumstances. Many mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws are very unjust. Nonviolent crimes should not be as harsh or punished as violent crime as they are not the same. However, under the mandatory minimum sentencing law, they are considered equal and should be punished equally. A study on 2010 showed that 344 people in California are serving a life sentence for shoplifting small amounts of merchandise and more than 650 people are also serving life sentences for possessing small quantities of drugs, (Chemerinsky, 2010). Such punishments do not fit the crime committed, sending more people to prison for longer time.
An example of these inhumane acts is the case of Leonardo Andrade. The Supreme Court sentenced Leonardo to a life sentence with no possibility of parole for 50 years for stealing 153 dollars’ worth of children’s...