That's what this new, helpful, and fascinating chart, compiled by FAMM, shows.
We looked at all the federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws created between 1987 and 2010 and asked ourselves some simple questions:
- When did Congress create this mandatory sentence?
- When did Congress increase it?
- When did Congress expand or rewrite the law so that more people were subjected to the mandatory sentence?
(2) Republican Congresses have created or expanded almost twice as many mandatory minimum sentences (131) as Democratic Congresses (68) since 1987.
(3) Including all presidents, more mandatory minimums have been created or expanded under Republican presidents (111) than Democratic ones (88) since 1987. However, President William J. Clinton presided over the creation or expansion of more mandatory minimums (87) than President George W. Bush (77).
(4) The creation and expansion of mandatory minimums corresponds to periods in which certain crimes received notable or extensive media attention and created fear or panic among Congress and the general public. For example, mandatory minimum drug sentences were created in the late 1980s and almost solely justified by now-debunked fears surrounding abuse of crack cocaine. Many mandatory minimums for child pornography and sex offenses were created in 2003 (when the abductions, rapes, and murders of several young female victims dominated headlines for months) and 2006 (the 25th anniversary of the abduction and death of Adam Walsh, who was the inspiration for the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, a law that was vigorously lobbied for by the victim’s father and host of the TV show America’s Most Wanted and by victims’ rights groups nationwide).
- Mandatory minimums are created out of fear and politics instead of reason or justice,
- They act as one-way ratchets, driving sentences ever and ever upwards, and
- Once created, it is virtually impossible to get rid of them.