Do mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes work?

Some drug offenses in New Jersey carry a mandatory minimum sentence. What this means is when the judge sentences you, he or she has no leeway and must hand down the sentence stated in the law.

There are mandatory minimum sentences for various types of drug crimes, even those non-violent in nature. Many people believe these sentences are unjust, and according to, some state legislators feel the same way. They’ve introduced a bill to end mandatory minimums for some crimes.

The issue

In most criminal cases, the judge has the ability to consider all the facts and the situation of the crime when imposing a sentence. In the case of a mandatory minimum sentence, the judge cannot consider anything or alter the sentence in any way. The law specifically states what he or she must impose upon you.

It is very rare that criminal cases are cut and dry. You may have circumstances that would lead the judge to be more lenient or to decide upon an alternative sentence that would benefit you and society much better than the mandatory sentence. That cannot happen in this situation, which is why people want it to change.

The solution

The goal to fix the issue is to end these sentences for certain crimes where it is likely that an alternative sentence would be applicable in many situations. Removal of mandatory requirements also helps with disparities that occur within the criminal justice system where certain groups of people end up incarcerated at a higher rate.

Finally, it also goes along with the decriminalization of drugs that is sweeping the country. It just makes sense to finally end these sentences requiring judges to put people behind bars without any other option.