Who opposes mandatory minimums?
The American people
Sixty-one percent of Americans oppose “mandatory prison sentences for certain types of non-violent crimes,” according to a January 2001 poll. The same percentage also believe mandatory minimum sentences are not fair. *
Since 1995, support for mandatory minimum sentences has declined by 17% (from 55% support for mandatory sentences in 1995 to only 38% support in 2001). **
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy
In August 2003, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said in remarks before the American Bar Association, “I can accept neither the necessity nor the wisdom of federal mandatory minimum sentences. In too many cases, mandatory minimum sentences are unwise and unjust.” Click here to read the full text of Justice Kennedy’s speech.
Denominations and other religious groups that have taken a position against mandatory sentencing include:
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
National Council of Churches
United Methodist Church
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Presbyterian Church (USA)
American Baptist Churches in the USA
Progressive National Baptist Convention
Church of the Brethren Witness
Union for Reform Judaism
United Church of Christ
Unitarian Universalist Association
Progressive Jewish Alliance
Church Women United
Prison Fellowship Ministries
National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.
National Baptist Convention of America, Inc.
National Missionary Baptist Convention of America
Mennonite Central Committee U.S., Washington Office
American Friends Service Committee
(source: Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative)
The American Bar Association
In June 2004, the American Bar Association’s (ABA’s) Justice Kennedy Commission called on Congress to repeal mandatory minimum sentences, particularly with respect to drug crimes. “Mandatory minimum sentences tend to be tough on the wrong people,” said Stephen Saltzburg, who chaired the commission. The commission’s report noted that the average federal drug trafficking sentence was 72.7 months in 2001. By comparison, the average federal manslaughter sentence was 34.3 months, the average assault sentence was 37.7 months, and the average sexual abuse sentence was 65.2 months.
In August 2004, the ABA House of Delegates adopted the commission’s recommendations, including the repeal of mandatory minimums.
President Dennis W. Archer formed the ABA Justice Kennedy Commission in October 2003 to address the “inadequacies — and the injustices — in our prison and correctional systems” identified by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in his speech to the 2003 ABA Annual Meeting.
|The New York Times||Baltimore Sun|
|Chicago Tribune||Milwaukee Journal Sentinel|
|Chicago Sun-Times||Louisville Courier-Journal|
|Boston Globe||St. Petersburg Times|
* Based on a nationwide poll conducted by Belden, Russonello & Stewart; margin of error ±2.2.
** Based on nationwide polls conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates in September 2001; margin of error ±3.5.