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Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Mandatory minimum sentences

I fully agree with the American Bar Association here. Mandatory minimum sentences, especially for drug offenses, are counterproductive and a waste of scarce resources. Our prison population has skyrocketed in the past two decades or so, mainly due to mandatory minimum sentences for small-time drug dealers and users.

Who has benefited from this? Construction firms that build prisons, sure. Private entities that run these prisons, yes. But has society as a whole? No. We pay more in taxes, we build more prisons, we throw more people in jail, all for no real reduction in drug use.

Justice is about taking into account the crime and the circumstances surrounding it, and determining the best punishment that will deter the behaviour and help ensure that it doesn't happen again. Mandatory sentencing completely takes this power away. If the "tough on crime" rhetoric matched up with results, we would be living in a crime-free utopia by now.


At 10:51 PM, June 25, 2004, Blogger Khatiya said...

Panama's Penal Code has about 1 year for those who prove they're just consumers, which is usually changed for rehab - a fine. Dealers, though, no matter how small time, always get jail, but it's 2 - 5 years. Then again, our maximum jail time is 20 years.

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