While the American legal system has been rightfully celebrated throughout history, it's not without its problems. For example, many of our prisons are overcrowded due to an overly strict interpretation of our law. Given our massive incarceration rate, there are serious problems with the current push for more mandatory minimums.
The Attorney General and Mandatory Minimums
Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently directed federal prosecutors to seek the harshest possible charges and sentences against defendants. Proponents of harsh sentencing believe this application of deterrence theory motivates people to remain law-abiding citizens, and makes an example of criminals to keep others from committing crimes. However, opponents argue that it unfairly puts people in prison for longer periods of time for small, often nonviolent crimes. Mandatory minimums represent a step backwards for reforming our prison system.
Under the Obama administration, the Attorney General advised federal prosecutors to limit the use of mandatory-minimum sentences, especially when it came to nonviolent drug offenses. The current Attorney General is pushing in the opposite direction, and some lobbyists are supporting him. Of note: the National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys, an organization of trial lawyers.
Opposition to Mandatory Minimums
The current Attorney General's push for mandatory minimums is popular in some circles, but many mainstream legal professionals — including state and local prosecutors — remain firmly against it. Opposition groups believe that even though simply prosecuting defendants without having to execute sound judgment may be convenient, it won't make communities safer and it certainly won't help build trust among American citizens.
Although these guidelines apply only to federal prosecutors, many in the legal community are taking a stand against the renewed tough on crime approach. It simply doesn't make sense in terms of creating a more just, equal and safe society. Whatever happens to sentencing guidelines, your defense attorney will walk you through your charges and pursue an outcome that protects your liberties.
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