Pros and Cons of Mandatory Minimum Sentences


When the group of Ammon Bundy, calling themselves patriots, took over a federal building as a sign of protest for the mandatory minimum sentencing of father and son, Dwight and Steven Hammond, for burning their own property that led affected acres of federal property, the controversy about prison laws sparked. Instead of the previous sentences of three months and more than a year of being in jail, respectively, the Hammonds were given five years after government prosecutors pushed for harsher punishment for the crime of arson of federal property.

A Mandatory Minimum Sentence is a period of five years of imprisonment for some crimes committed like drugs, immigration violations and the like which cannot be overturned even if there are mitigating circumstances. This part of the criminal justice system has received both praises and criticisms from divided parties. Let us discuss the pros and cons given by supporters and critics about Mandatory Minimum Sentences.

List of the Pros of Mandatory Minimum Sentences

1. Equality
Supporters of mandatory minimum sentencing express that without this type of justice system, chances are, unfair sentencing on guilty offenders will happen. With an equal number of years of imprisonment, justice will be served and every offender will be given the same punishment without bias.

2. Lower Crime Rates
With a minimum sentence of five years, potential crime offenders will think twice before committing petty crimes for the fear of being in prison. If prison terms are just short, this will not deter bad elements from doing illegal activities like selling drugs.

3. Elimination of Dishonesty
According to some groups, it changed the way sentencing was done wherein the district courts had full discretion on the period of imprisonment. It removes the power of judges as well granting parole officials to be the ones to decide the fate of the accused and inmates.

List of the Cons of Mandatory Minimum Sentences

1. Ineffective
When it comes to crime reduction, critics say that mandatory minimum sentences are not helping to reduce crimes. According to a law professor, there are no marginal deterrent effects and if there were, these were just fleeting. Moreover, even if a drug offender is imprisoned, there will be others who will still commit these crimes.

2. Government Expense
Opponents contend that putting these offenders in prison for a minimum sentence of five years is just an additional spending of taxpayers’ money since prisoners’ needs are provided by the government, from food to health care. Also, this will just increase the number of people who are incarcerated which means there will be more expenses.

3. Affect Minority Groups
Some critics say that drug offenses are often pointed at minority groups and since this is the case, it can be possible that the minority will be targeted and affected by the justice system. In fact, some of the punishments for the minority groups are heavier than those in the white population.

Mandatory Minimum Sentences have both benefits and setbacks. For offenders who are elderly and have committed petty violations of the law but are given the mandatory sentence, it can be too harsh. On the other hand, these sentences can be effective in reducing crime rates. What is important is for the justice system to listen to what the community says.