I have discussed some of the issues with minimum mandatory sentences here on Crimcourts a few times; from inequities in sentencing, to the ridiculousness of a man facing a mandatory 15-year sentence for having sex on the beach (though the prosecutor on that case agreed, and declined to proceed on the PRR designation that would have mandated the mandatory minimum). The issue has gained some national traction in political discussions, mostly as it relates to our overcrowded prison populations, including critics from both the right and left.
You run the risk of injustice when you try to apply blanket results without regard to the specifics of each case. Harsh sentences are appropriate for serious offenders, but a balance needs to be struck. Non-violent drug offenders probably don’t need decades in prison, and even young people that commit violent offenses are unlikely to be a risk to society when they become senior citizens. Reform still faces as uphill battle, as it is still politically advantageous to be tough on crime, and the prison industry is lucrative and has a powerful lobbying interest, but I am hopeful common sense will ultimately bring reason to our criminal punishment structures.
John Oliver took a look on This Week Tonight, and raises some quality, and some funny, points: