Harsh mandatory minimum sentences have not resulted in fewer drug crimes or lower recidivism rates. What they have done, however, is cause the prison population to explode, cost the taxpayers an incredible amount of money and lock up non-violent offenders who arguably don't need to be imprisoned.
Thankfully, sentencing reform has become an issue on which most Democrats and Republicans can agree. Some U.S. legislators are taking advantage of this sea change in order to introduce bills that would allow judges to deviate from mandatory minimum sentences in some or most cases.
Legislators representing Utah seem to be playing a significant role in these reform efforts. Utah Senator Mike Lee is co-sponsoring a bill in the Senate, while Rep. Jason Chaffetz introduced a similar bill in the House.
Many advocacy groups are hopeful about what they see as the first real shot at sentencing reform in decades. The president of a group called Families Against Mandatory Minimums said: "Let's put it this way: I've been doing this for 22 years and this is the first time since 1993 I have felt significant attention from Congress on this issue."
Congress has a pretty bad track record when it comes to passing legislation. Therefore, celebration and excitement may be premature. However, this is an issue that is bigger than any political party and too important to be drowned by political partisanship. We must hope that after decades of getting it wrong, Congress will finally do the right thing.
SourceHuffington Post, "Congress Looks To Relax Mandatory Prison Terms," Henry C. Jackson, Sept. 17, 2013