by Evan Bernick, Paul Larkin
The Heritage Foundation
February 10, 2014
Mandatory minimum sentences are the product of good intentions, but good intentions do not always make good policy. There are public officials on both sides of the aisle who support amending some components of federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Congress must ask itself: Should legislatures leave judges more or less free to tailor sentences to the aggravating and mitigating facts of each criminal case within a defined range? Granting district courts some additional limited sentencing discretion would improve the status quo by eliminating some unjust sentences without obviously undercutting the incapacitative, deterrent, and educative benefits of the criminal law. The Smarter Sentencing Act seeks to ameliorate some of the extremely harsh sentences that district courts have imposed, especially for nonviolent drug offenses, without undermining the efforts that the government has made over the past four decades to improve public safety.



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