Mandatory Minimums Misconceptions Fact Sheet

The Sentencing Project recently released a new fact sheet, “How Mandatory Minimums Perpetuate Mass Incarceration and What to Do About It.” The report highlights widespread evidence that mandatory minimum sentences produce substantial harm with no overall benefit to crime control, as well as notable reforms in recent years to scale back these unjust sentences.  Mandatory minimums are legal provisions in each state and the federal government that require a specific minimum prison term for certain crimes, regardless of individual circumstances. Determined by lawmakers rather than judges, these sentences represent a uniquely American approach to sentencing that has accelerated prison growth.  Mandatory minimum sentences are problematic because they: Constrain judicial discretion; Deepen racial disparities in the criminal legal system; and Worsen prison conditions, causing harm to both incarcerated people and correctional staff.Despite the temptation to stiffen penalties to address crime, lawmakers can turn instead to effective approaches to protect public safety that include prevention and early interventions. The Sentencing Project supports the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences entirely and urges lawmakers to make the changes retroactive for persons already serving these sentences.


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