Mandatory Minimums Essay

1195 Words5 Pages
Mandatory minimum sentencing practices, or truth-in sentencing, are a popular topic for debate in America’s criminal justice society. These laws require offenders to serve a substantial proportion of their imposed prison sentence. The goal is to incapacitate serious offenders and better promote public safety by doing so. The effectiveness and constitutionality of such practices are questionable, therefore leading to a formulation of many opinions on the issue. Although the debate has gained popularity in the relatively recent future, mandatory minimum sentencing has roots that date back to the 18th century with the enactment of the first penal code. Mandatory minimum penalties have always been prescribed for a core set of serious offenses, such as murder and treason, and also have been enacted to address immediate problems and exigencies. (Sentencing Commission, 2011, pg.7) However, the first mandatory minimums were for federal offenses and established in the 1790 Crimes Act. Seven of the offenses in the 1790 Crimes Act carried a mandatory death penalty: treason, murder, three offenses relating to piracy, forgery of a public security of the United States, and the rescue of a person convicted of a capital crime. (Sentencing Commission, 2011, pg.8) Although Texas passed the first habitual offender law that carried a mandatory life sentence in 1974, such legislation on sentencing did not become customary at the state level until Washington voters passed Initiative 593 in 1993. The movement towards mandatory minimums is referred to by many as the Truth-In Sentencing Movement. Since then, twenty-five states have passed similar laws; the last state to do so was Massachusetts in 2012. The federal government played a major role in promoting this movement through the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which included Violent Offender Incarceration and
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