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The Champion

December 2011 , Page 63 

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Minorities Still Burdened With Mandatory Minimum Sentences (Informal Opinion)

By Jack King

Read more Informal Opinion columns.

For more than two decades, NACDL has opposed mandatory minimum sentences. The U.S. Sentencing Commission’s comprehensive report on mandatory minimum sentences, released on October 31, 2011, shows that statutory mandatory minimum penalties continue to “apply too broadly, are set too high, or both, to warrant the prescribed minimum penalty for the full range of offenders who could be prosecuted under the particular criminal statute.” Nearly three out of four federal inmates serving a mandatory minimum sentence are Black or Hispanic. Moreover, the fixed penalties are costly to society at large. The report acknowledges that mandatory minimums have been a major factor in the tripling of the federal prison population over the past 20 years.

NACDL has long maintained that the goals of sentencing — retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation — are never served by inflexible and frequently disproportionate mandatory minimum penalties. Mandatory minimums for

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