Why Should I Care?

Young Girl

Prisoners and their loved ones know all too well the harmful consequences of harsh mandatory minimum prison sentences, but our nation’s one-size-fits-all approach to punishment affect all citizens. Here are some of the reasons you should care:

Mandatory minimums do not keep you safe…

  • A Pennsylvania study found that long, mandatory minimum sentences do not reduce crime.
  • 17 states cut their prison populations over the past decade. All 17 experienced a decline in crime rates.
  • Half of all federal prisoners are locked up for nonviolent drug offenses.
  • In 2010, Minnesota saved nearly 1,200 prison beds and $37.5 million thanks to a sentencing safety valve, all without jeopardizing public safety.

But they do cost you, the taxpayers, billions of dollars…

  • Taxpayers spent almost $60 billion on prisons and jails in 2012 alone.
  • State spending on corrections has risen more than 300 percent over the past two decades. 

Deplete important law enforcement resources…

  • Growing prison populations and costs require the Department of Justice to cut funding for crime-fighting personnel and equipment.
  • One of every four Department of Justice dollars is spent on locking up mostly nonviolent offenders in federal prisons.

Tear families apart, and distort our system of justice

  • One in every 28 children now has a parent in jail or prison.
  • Mandatory minimum laws were designed to target kingpins, but end up ensnaring low-level offenders with little information to share for a reduced sentence.
  • “In addition to driving up our prison population, mandatory minimum penalties can lead to terribly unjust results in individual cases.”—U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
  • “Our federal mandatory minimum sentences are simply heavy-handed and arbitrary…we should not have laws that ruin the lives of young men and women who have committed no violence.” –U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

Given this reality, the public now supports reform.

  • Sixty percent of Americans oppose laws mandating minimum prison terms for nonviolent crimes and sixty three percent of Americans support moving away from mandatory drug sentences
  • 84 percent of Americans agree that some of the money that we are spending on locking up low-risk, nonviolent inmates should be shifted to strengthening community corrections programs like probation and parole. 

Convinced? Learn about What Can Be Done.

Still unsure? Read our Quick Facts for more information.