What are Mandatory Minimums?

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Mandatory minimum sentencing laws require binding prison terms of a particular length for people convicted of certain federal and state crimes. These inflexible, “one-size-fits-all” sentencing laws may seem like a quick-fix solution for crime, but they undermine justice by preventing judges from fitting the punishment to the individual and the circumstances of their offenses. Mandatory sentencing laws cause federal and state prison populations to soar, leading to overcrowding, exorbitant costs to taxpayers, and diversion of funds from law enforcement.

Most mandatory minimum sentences apply to drug offenses, but Congress has enacted them for other crimes, including certain gun, pornography, and economic offenses. Click here for the complete list of federal mandatory minimum sentences. Many states also have mandatory sentencing laws, but some have reformed them. See if your state is on the list.