Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: June 02, 2009 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412971928 | Print ISBN: 9781412950855 | Online ISBN: 9781412971928| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Mandatory minimum sentencing laws remove judges' discretion in the sentencing process by requiring a sentence of a specific length for a convicted individual when certain criteria have been met. For example, a federal conviction for possession of half a kilogram or more of powder cocaine leads to a mandatory sentence of at least 5 years in prison. Drug cases are the most common offenses receiving mandatory minimums. While mandatory minimums have proven to be effective when targeted at higher-level offenders, they have also dramatically increased incarceration rates for nonviolent offenders and have contributed to sentencing disparities. This entry describes the objectives of mandatory minimum sentencing and examines both the effectiveness and the unintended consequences of these laws. Before the standardization of minimum sentencing under mandatory minimum laws, judges had unlimited discretion in the sentencing of convicted individuals. Personal views regarding crime and sentencing inevitably differed among judges, so the amount ...