Pros And Cons Of Mandatory Minimum Sentencing

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There has been a myriad of discussion and arguments on both sides of the aisle, when it comes to ideas and reform on minimum sentencing guidelines. Should judges be allowed to adjust sentences as they see fit, based on the totality of the circumstances of the case before them, or should each respective legislative body put strict guidelines in place that are not to be tampered with, leaving judges only a minimum of leeway one certain specific cases? There has been decisions made by the Supreme Court that upholds the idea that longer sentences do not violate the 8th Amendment protecting someone from cruel and unusual punishment, however there is still debate about if the practice of long-term prison sentences really is a good and sound criminal justice management idea (Larkin, 2014).

Historically, judges had virtually unlimited power to adjust sentences as they saw fit, based on whatever they decided at the time, with really no oversight (Larkin, 2014). However, in 1984 when Congress passed the Sentencing Reform Act, the reigns were pulled in tightly on judges, and the first guidelines on sentencing were used (Larkin, 2014). Congress also enacted various other types of mandatory minimum sentences on specific types of crimes, thus limiting the discretion of the
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This shift swung the power from the judges to the prosecutors (Larkin, 2014). “Judges may have to impose whatever punishment the law requires, but prosecutors are under no comparable obligation to charge a defendant with violating a law carrying a mandatory minimum penalty (Larkin)”. Furthermore, prosecutors have virtually all the power to decide exactly what to charge a person with, which allows them to essentially bargain with a person’s life, by dangling their freedom in front of them, and playing a game of Russian Roulette with regards to what charge they want to apply to the crime the suspect committed (Larkin,