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Cooney 1Shane CooneyMichael SkupskyWriting 12114 October 2015Eliminating Mandatory MinimumsThe criminal justice system in the United States of America is fallible. In 1951, the United States Congress passed the Boggs Act which introduced mandatory minimum sentencing laws and federal sentencing guidelines although they weren’t consistently applied until the early 1990’s (Rothwell). These laws and guidelines dictate the sentences that a court must give to a person convicted of a crime no matter what the unique circumstances of the offender or the offense are (Mauer). Drug related sentencing seems to evoke the most controversy; a simple 0.009 grams of black tar heroin may cost one life in prison (Federal Mandatory Minimums).These sentences have almost no flexibility, making them “one size fits all” convictions. On paper, these laws seem to be a credible and effective way to charge criminals and punish repeat offenders. But in reality, these laws – enacted by Congress – undermine justice by preventing judges from fitting the punishment to the individual and the circumstances of the crime. Not only are mandatory minimums unfair for the offenders, but also for the taxpayers of America. Taxpayersmay pay up to $60,000 a year to keep a prisoner behind bars — incarceration itself costs the taxpayer about $18,000 per prisoner each year. (The Price of Prisons). According to the article Cost to the Taxpayer, “… state and federal spending on corrections has grown 400% over the past 20 years from about $12 billion to about $60 billion.” As judges sentence increasing amounts of low level drug users to more than 25 years in prison, taxpayers’ wallets are getting lighter.
Cooney 2The United States currently has 2.3 million prisoners behind bars, and nearly half of thoseare nonviolent criminals (World Prison Brief). The Department of Justice spends over twenty-five percent of its budget on the federal prison system; with less prisoners, that money could be spent on improving law enforcement and protecting the public from truly violent offenders (Oversight of the Department of Justice). Citizens across the country have called for the reform of the criminal justice system, especially in regards to mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Voters think—on average—that about one-fifth of prisoners could be released without posing any threat to public safety (Public Opinion Strategies). Congress should eliminate mandatory minimums because Congress has the power to change legislation to benefit the American people.In July of 2015, while speaking at the NAACP convention in Philadelphia, President Barack Obama called for reform within the Justice Department. Strongly opposed to mandatory minimums, Obama reduced the sentences of 46 nonviolent criminals, stating that, “If you’re a