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Mandatory sentencing has been viewed as a failure on behalf of the justice system. Following Nixon's War on Drugs, it is largely agreed upon today to have been a policy disaster. The price society has payed for being Tough on Crime is increased recidivism, an inescapable cycle of poverty with respect to defendants, and zero actual justice for victims.
As a nation, the USA has the highest proportion of incarcerated individuals in the developed world. Mandatory sentencing has turned petty crimes into jail time, compounded moderate crimes with more jail time, and provided zero actual crime reduction for the public. For these reasons, federal policy is minimizing or removing mandatory minimums.
Likewise, judges ought to be able to use their own discretion. They certainly aren't doing it now: the plea bargain is the only form of justice known in the US judicial system. Even for innocent people wrongly accused, the sheer number of crimes that lack discretion from the bench impose a burden on our social and judicial resources we cannot bear.
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