Prisoners and their loved ones know all too well the harmful consequences of harsh mandatory minimum prison sentences, but our nation’s one-size-fits-all approach to punishment affects all citizens. Here are some of the reasons you should care:
Mandatory minimums do not keep you safe…
- A Pennsylvania study found that long, mandatory minimum sentences do not reduce crime.
- 17 states cut their prison populations over the past decade. All 17 experienced a decline in crime rates.
- Half of all federal prisoners are locked up for nonviolent drug offenses.
- In 2010, Minnesota saved nearly 1,200 prison beds and $37.5 million thanks to a sentencing safety valve, all without jeopardizing public safety.
But they do cost you, the taxpayers, billions of dollars…
- Taxpayers spent almost $60 billion on prisons and jails in 2012 alone.
- State spending on corrections has risen more than 300 percent over the past two decades.
Deplete important law enforcement resources…
- Growing prison populations and costs require the Department of Justice to cut funding for crime-fighting personnel and equipment.
- One of every four Department of Justice dollars is spent on locking up mostly nonviolent offenders in federal prisons.
Tear families apart, and distort our system of justice
- One in every 28 children now has a parent in jail or prison.
- Mandatory minimum laws were designed to target kingpins, but end up ensnaring low-level offenders with little information to share for a reduced sentence.
- “In addition to driving up our prison population, mandatory minimum penalties can lead to terribly unjust results in individual cases.”—U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
- “Our federal mandatory minimum sentences are simply heavy-handed and arbitrary…we should not have laws that ruin the lives of young men and women who have committed no violence.” –U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
Given this reality, the public now supports reform.
- Sixty percent of Americans oppose laws mandating minimum prison terms for nonviolent crimes and sixty three percent of Americans support moving away from mandatory drug sentences
- 84 percent of Americans agree that some of the money that we are spending on locking up low-risk, nonviolent inmates should be shifted to strengthening community corrections programs like probation and parole.
Convinced? Learn about What Can Be Done.
Still unsure? Take a look at these resources: