Why We Need to Do Away With Mandatory Minimums

Law & Philosophy

I first became aware of mandatory minimums when interning for a federal judge after my first semester of law school. Perhaps the most important thing I learned was about mandatory minimums. A case was before the court where someone had made a bad decision, sold some drugs, and was set to go away for a very long time. The judge explained to me that he was about to send this man, father of four children, to prison for nearly two decades–but that the decision was not his. I was taken aback and thought to myself “But you’re the judge, what do you mean?” He saw my confusion and remarked: “Mandatory minimums, gotta love them.”

Mandatory minimums are established by statute and require an offender to be sentenced to a certain amount of years (decided by statute) for an offense–no matter what. The idea grew steam when the Boggs Act of…

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