Mandatory Minimum Sentences Create Career Criminals
Mandatory minimums are fairly self-explanatory. If someone commits a crime, they get a guaranteed amount of jail time, regardless of the circumstances. For example, any American convicted of trafficking at least 28 grams of crack cocaine serves a minimum of five years. The idea is to deter potential criminals with the threat of tough sentences ... because we all know that criminals are purely rational people who thoroughly research all possible repercussions before studiously committing to a crime.
U.S. Sentencing CommissionAlso, criminals are obviously going to be aware of the arbitrary and extremely inconsistent amounts that trigger a sentence.
But it turns out that prison time makes criminals more likely to reoffend further down the line, because prison is basically school for sociopaths. The longer you spend inside, the less you learn about how to run a Dairy Queen and the more you learn about severing toes and sending them in ransom notes. Australia found that mandatory minimums were associated with increased crime rates, because if you treat people like career criminals, that's what they become.
Mandatory minimums also ruin a judge's ability to exercise discretion. Take the case of Tonya Drake, who was offered $100 to mail a package for a stranger. She agreed because she needed the money to feed her kids (and had apparently never seen any crime show ever). The package contained crack, of course, and Tonya had technically trafficked drugs. She was sentenced to a mandatory ten years for making a dumb decision in a moment of desperation. The judge said, "This woman doesn't belong in prison for ten years for what I understand she did. That's just crazy, but there's nothing I can do about it."
So that's where we're at. We have laws so ridiculous that they make judges feel powerless.
Only "Following Up" On Abuse Cases Can Make The Abuse Worse
"Second responder" programs were pioneered in the early '80s. It sounds like a snarky nickname you give to the cop who showed up late for the gunfight, but the idea is to assign a police officer and caseworker to assist victims after a report of domestic abuse. Sounds great, right? Surely abuse would stop if offenders knew that the cops might be dropping in at any moment.