If Republicans really were conservative and, therefore, true constitutionalists, they would have taken the lead, long ago, in wiping these atrocious laws off the books, instead of helping to multiply them around the country. These laws represent a perversion of the American court system. Congressman Ron Paul denounces Mandatory Minimum sentencing laws for "cluttering our courts and prisons with non-violent individuals," while undermining our liberties.
Over the years, I have written several articles on the subject of Mandatory Minimum sentencing, commending the tireless efforts of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), while citing reports by the major principals, legal and otherwise, involved in researching and documenting the field. Following are links to articles archived on Issues & Views-The Website, along with brief excerpts.
When judges don't judge 
First came the system of mandatory minimum sentencing, imposed on states around the country. Under the restrictions of MM sentencing, judges must impose fixed sentences on defendants and are forbidden to exercise their own discretion. This means that we now live in an unconstitutional legal world where prosecutors determine not only which charges to bring against the accused, but also determine the final sentence, if said accused is found guilty.
Good intentions, bad consequences 
Members of Congress and state legislators believed that harsher sentences would catch drug kingpins and deter others from entering the drug trade. Instead, thousands of low-level defendants and addicts now serve sentences designed for kingpins because judges no longer have the authority to make the punishment fit the crime. Mandatory sentencing laws prevent judges from considering the severity of the offense, and the offender’s role, or his or her potential for rehabilitation when determining the sentence.
Mandatory Minimum Sentences or Does This Make Any Sense? 
Such mandatory sentences must be imposed, regardless of a person's role in the crime, or other mitigating factors. Prosecutors, not judges, have the discretion to decide what charges to bring, whether to accept or deny a plea bargain, and ultimately, to determine what the final sentence will be.
Bringing down families 
The consequences of these immoral sentencing laws are horrendous – mothers of young children incarcerated for periods that span their children's youth; siblings separated from one another, never to be reunited in a family setting; families torn apart, often for good. All because a parent committed an act that is made foolish only because the laws are foolish. They are victims of zealous "drug warriors," who have succeeded in ratcheting up into felony crimes activities that once were misdemeanors.
When did we get this mean? 
From the snares of determined prosecutors, "no one is safe," claims Paul Craig Roberts, author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions: How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice."> The cliché about the rich buying their way out of prosecution hasn't been holding up lately. In fact, it is easy and less messy to frame a white collar victim (such as Martha Stewart, Michael Milken or Leona Helmsley), since all a prosecutor has to do is "interpret an arcane regulation differently or with a new slant." The trend to criminalizing civil infractions makes prominent figures easy prey. Law becomes uncertain when ambitious prosecutors can create criminal offenses merely by interpretation.
Cruel and irrational 
The appalling fact of mandatory minimum sentencing continues. This month, a Utah federal judge, like so many judges before him, was forced to impose a 55-year prison sentence on a first-time drug offender. As reported in the Deseret Morning News (11/7/04), Judge Paul Cassell appeared to be as upset about the sentence he imposed on Weldon Angelos as others in the courtroom.
Trying to be tougher than the next guy 
On January 4, CBS's "60 Minutes" took on the horror that is called Mandatory Minimum sentencing, a subject frequented often on this website. Host Ed Bradley described these harsh sentencing laws and interviewed principals in law enforcement who object to them.
Bradley: In the wake of the cocaine epidemic of the 1980s, Congress passed harsh sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimum sentencing laws requiring federal judges in most cases to impose long jail terms on anyone convicted of drug trafficking – no matter how small their crime. But now, objections to the drug laws are coming from an unexpected source – federal judges themselves. Normally reluctant to speak out on political matters, federal judges by the dozens have protested harsh drug laws, contending the laws force them to send some people to prison who don't belong there and others for many more years than they deserve.
The Overcriminalized Society: Jailing the innocent 
By Paul Craig Roberts
Americans are uninformed about the tyrannical nature of their criminal justice system. Until they become personally ensnared in the system, Americans believe that police and prosecutors would never convict an innocent person. Once they experience the system, Americans are terrified by the system's indifference to whether a defendant has committed a crime. ...
In a recent Cato Policy Report, Erik Luna says that "the sheer number of idiosyncratic laws and the scope of discretionary enforcement" are making criminals out of many Americans who had no intent to break a law or any knowledge that they had. A country that goes out of its way to imprison the innocent has no business preaching democracy to the world.
The vanishing jury trial 
Craig Horowitz describes the vanishing jury trial in "The Defense Rests – Permanently," (New York magazine, 3/4/02), and claims that our criminal justice system no longer works to serve the truth. He concedes that no rational person would want a return to the permissiveness and lack of accountability of two decades ago, but that the current "overwhelming power of the criminal-justice system has raised a compelling question: Has the presumption of innocence and the constitutional guarantee of a trial by a jury of one's peers been compromised by measures designed to speed the accused through a system with fewer opportunities to escape?"
A wholesale transfer of power 
American law, based as it was in Anglo-Saxon law, once required that before an individual is deemed a criminal he must have acted with an intent to do wrong. To commit a crime, the law required that an individual must both cause (or attempt to cause) a wrongful injury and do so with some form of malicious intent. Paul Rosenzweig, writing for the Heritage Foundation, joins his voice to others who declare that American law today has been contorted to criminalize acts of negligence and even actions that are accidental. In "The Over-Criminalization of Social and Economic Conduct," Rosenzweig describes how criminal law has strayed from its historical roots, even in terms of subject matter.
Paul Craig Roberts says of these "regulatory" crimes: "Prosecutors have been granted wide discretion by social welfare regulation, which criminalizes behavior that bears no relationship to moral wrongs (such as murder), which traditionally defined criminal acts. Today, Americans draw prison sentences for unknowingly violating vague regulations, the meanings of which are interpreted by the regulatory police who enforce the regulations." Read more!