Mandatory Minimums Fail to Achieve Justice

Judges should have discretion in issuing sentences, says Constitution Project

CONTACT: Matthew Allee, (202) 580-6922 or

WASHINGTON – The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security has scheduled a hearing today to examine mandatory minimum sentencing. The Subcommittee will consider three different proposed pieces of legislation that seek to provide judges with more discretion to avoid unjust outcomes when handing down sentences. The Constitution Project applauds the Subcommittee for today’s hearing and for moving forward with these much-needed fixes to our nation’s sentencing policies.

“The Constitution Project’s bipartisan Sentencing Initiative Committee found that mandatory minimum penalties run counter to a system of sentencing guidelines,” said Virginia Sloan, president of the Constitution Project. “The Committee, co-chaired by Edwin Meese, President Reagan’s attorney general, and Philip Heymann, President Clinton’s deputy attorney general, concluded that our system of justice is best served when judges, after looking at all the facts and arguments of a case, can determine what a fair and sensible punishment is for the guilty party. The current sentencing guidelines are overly complex, while continuing to rely heavily on quantifiable conduct not centrally related to the offense of conviction. We must trust the judges we have elevated as the arbiters of justice. The Subcommittee on Crime and Chairman Bobby Scott should be applauded for addressing the vital issues of fairness and discretion in our criminal justice system.”

The Constitution Project’s Sentencing Initiative Committee, a bipartisan collection of current and former judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, scholars, and other sentencing experts, issued two reports on criminal sentencing, “Principles for the Design and Reform of Sentencing Systems,” and “In A Post-Booker World.” Among its recommendations were calls for guideline simplification, an end to the crack and powder cocaine sentencing disparity, and providing meaningful due process protections and reliable fact-finding mechanisms.

Click here to view a copy of “Principles for the Design and Reform of Sentencing Systems.

Click here to view a copy of “In a Post-Booker World.

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