Research Paper: Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws

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[. . .] In the past three years, there is an ongoing basic critique of these statutes, which is rapidly becoming widely accepted. The laws do not accomplish the conventional accepted goals of punishment since it does not incorporate all theories of retribution. Generally, these theories necessitate that punishment should be proportionate to the magnitude of the offense. The concept of proportionality between the offense and punishment demonstrates a common principle of justice and a restriction of government power. The policies eliminate judicial discretion to enforce a prison term that is lower than the statutory floor (Luna, 2010). As a result, mandatory minimums make case-specific information about the crime and the criminal irrelevant to the extent that the facts may require a below-minimum sentence. Therefore, the sentences are indifferent to proportionality concerns and can destroy boundaries through enforcement of obligatory punishment.

In my opinion, mandatory minimum sentencing laws do not accomplish significant goals in the criminal justice system. They fail to offer efficient and effective deterrence or consequential incapacitation even though it provides certainty or clarity of punishment. In most cases, the clarity and conviction of punishment is not necessarily linked to deterrence. Deterrence requires the offender to know the legislation, believes that the costs are beyond the benefits from infringing the statutes, and apply the knowledge in decision-making at the moment of the crime. While mandatory minimum sentences were enacted to help respond to the public outcry about drug offenses, they are rarely used by many criminals in balancing costs and benefits during decision-making at the time of crime.

I also think that they are ineffective since they disregard the principle of proportionality under the theory of retribution. As previously mentioned, the retribution theories require that punishment is relatively equal to the magnitude of the crime. These laws have been ineffective and contributed to negative effects on the criminal justice system since they do not incorporate this principle with regards to low-level offenders. The mandatory minimum sentences do not provide punishment to low-level offenders that match the degree of their crime or offense. The low-level offenders are subject to harsh punitive measures for their crimes due to the congressional resolve to punish crime severely. As a result, the proportionality principle is seemingly ignored in determination of punishment to drug offenders in mandatory minimum sentences policy.

Furthermore, I tend to think that the laws were not well-thought out during the enactment process. They were enacted in response to the ongoing increase in drug offenses as well as the ever-increasing public rage and outcry. Therefore, it seems like the major goal in the enactment of the laws was to react to the public rather than necessarily developing measures that would effectively deal with the drug crime problem. The constant improvements on these laws are fueled by the need to react to the ever-changing public concern regarding increase in drug crimes. Consequently, the policies do not deal with the crime problem effectively but they instead increase drug crimes and prison overcrowding.

Black Perspective Principles and Mandatory Minimum Sentences Policy:

Mandatory minimum sentences have continued to have significant effects upon the black community because of their impact on black perspective principles. According to Ulmer, Kurlychek & Kramer (2009), more Hispanic males are more likely to obtain mandatory minimums (p. 427). They also state that there are huge differences between Blacks and Whites in the application of the mandatory minimums. As compared to other races or ethnicity, young Black and Hispanic criminals are more likely to receive mandatory minimum sentences. This is despite the fact that young Black males are not specifically disadvantaged in the decisions of prosecutors to enforce mandatory minimums. According to the findings of previous researches, judges attribute greater seriousness or risk to specific categories of criminals like young Black males and young Hispanic males.

The findings of another research on the effects of mandatory minimum sentences on the black community show various effects of these laws on blacks. First, the laws worsen the problem of single parent's households in the black community. As the black males are subject to harsh punishment for drug crimes, they leave behind girlfriends or wives and/or children (Blakemore, 2010). Secondly, black males are more likely to face imprisonment for drug crimes because of the increase in black male unemployment rates. The increase in the rate of unemployment among the black community originates from the fact that jobs continue to move further and further to the suburbs, leaving blacks with few living wage employment options.

The other effect of mandatory minimum sentences on the black community is that they have severely diluted the voting strength of the community due to increased incarceration rates among black males. Upon release from prisons, black males have limited skills and no longer have the right to vote in elections. Finally, incarceration has lost its negative stigma within the black community since being a former inmate appears to be worn like a badge of honor instead of a disgraceful experience or occurrence.

Black perspective is not only an anti-racist perspective but it's also an ethnic or cultural perspective, which is derived from abstract academic definition and living struggles of these people against brutal and undifferentiated racism. This perspective provides an understanding of the impact of mandatory minimum sentences policy on the black community. I think that the reason for the contribution of these laws to increased incarceration rates is the struggles of increased unemployment rates among the black community. Blacks have been involved in committing more drug crimes because of their need to obtain money in light of the extensive poverty problem than whites. As a result of incarceration through the laws, the statutes result in other effects of mandatory minimum sentences on the black community.

The other principle of black perspective is their consideration as minority people who are subject to a lifelong history of overt discrimination and treated differently. For a long period of time, the community has been treated as differently, which has contributed to overt racism. Consequently, mandatory minimum sentences have had significant effects on the black community since police and judges have seemingly abused their discretion in applying the sentences.

Summary:

Mandatory minimum sentences policy has evolved throughout the history of the criminal justice system to an extent that the laws cannot be considered as modern development. These laws have been subject to constant improvements because of congressional resolve to punish crime severely and in response to the public outcry and rage regarding the increase in drug crime. Actually, the laws were enacted in order to provide strict punishment for drug offenders and lessen these crimes significantly.

The statutes have had minimal positive impacts on the criminal justice system since their negative consequences outweigh the positive ones. They are considered as one of the contributing factors to prison overcrowding and increase in drug-related crimes. Together with other factors, mandatory minimum sentences have contributed to significant impacts on the black community.

References:

Blakemore, E. (2010). Mandatory Minimum Sentencing and Black Males. Retrieved September

10, 2012, from http://racism.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=911:s98blake-1&catid=138&Itemid=155

Greenblatt, N. (2008). How Mandatory Are Mandatory Minimums? How Judges Can Avoid

Imposing Mandatory Minimum Sentences. American Journal of Criminal Law, 36(1), 1-38.

Luna, E. (2010, May 27). Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Provisions Under Federal Law.

Retrieved September 10, 2012, from http://www.cato.org/publications/congressional-testimony/mandatory-minimum-sentencing-provisions-under-federal-law

Mascharka, C. (2001). Mandatory Minimum Sentences: Exemplifying the Law of Unintended

Consequences. Florida State University Law Review, 28(935), 395-975. Retrieved from http://www.law.fsu.edu/journals/lawreview/downloads/284/Masharka2.pdf

Risley, D. (200, May). Mandatory Minimum Sentences -- An Overview. Retrieved September 10,

2012, from http://www.drugwatch.org/Mandatory%20Minimum%20Sentences.htm

Schlosser, E. (1994, September). Marijuana and the Law. Retrieved September 10, 2012, from http://content.ebscohost.com/pdf18_21/pdf/1994/161I/01Sep94/9409151253.pdf?T=P&P=AN&K=9409151253&S=R&D=lkh&EbscoContent=dGJyMNHr7ESeprc40dvuOLCmr0qep7JSsaq4SrOWxWXS&ContentCustomer=dGJyMPGntUmxrbRMuePfgeyx43zx

Ulmer, J.T., Kurlychek, M.C. & Kramer, J.H. (2009, November 12). Prosecutorial Discretion

and the Imposition of Mandatory Minimum Sentences. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 44(4), 427-458. Retrieved from http://www.uk.sagepub.com/hemmens/study/articles/09/Ulmer.pdf

Vincent, B.S. & Hofer, P.J. (1994). The Consequences of Mandatory Minimum Prison Terms: A

Summary of Recent Findings. Retrieved from Federal Judicial Center website:

http://www.fjc.gov/public/pdf.nsf/lookup/conmanmin.pdf/$file/conmanmin.pdf [END OF PREVIEW]

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Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws.  (2012, September 10).  Retrieved June 16, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/mandatory-minimum-sentencing-laws/9986466

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https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/mandatory-minimum-sentencing-laws/9986466.