Mandatory minimums are not outdated
One of the unfortunate policies implemented in the “War on Crime” over the last few decades is the mandatory minimum sentence. This has dramatically driven up costs and put people behind bars for decades who really did not need to be there. We have seen some sanity with reducing the minimums for crack cocaine, but more progress is needed – and an unlikely alliance of liberals and “tea party” conservatives aim to do just that.
It has been said that mandatory minimum sentences are outdated, but to say they were outdated implies that they were ever a good idea to begin with. Yes, there were problems with people bouncing in and out of prison as if there is a revolving door, and certainly people were victimized because of criminals falling through the cracks.
But mandatory minimums are the equivalent of smashing a spider with a twenty pound sledge hammer. It does kill the spider, but you also wind up with a hole in your wall or other damage that was not necessary to eliminate the arachnid. It would be better to give judges discretion in how they punish offenders, because not all crimes (nor all criminals) are the same. One-size-fits-all policies are rarely the best option and they create other problems.
The fact that this is a bipartisan effort is a good sign. With both Left and Right pushing this idea – even if for different reasons – this has a chance of passing without getting bogged down in partisan politics. Senators Donnelly and Coats should sign on to the effort in the Senate, and Congressmen Visclosky Walorski, Stutzman, Rokita, Brooks, Messer, Carson, Bucshon, and Young should all join the effort in the House. Let’s make Indiana a leader in moving toward sanity on mandatory minimum sentences.