Supreme Court Justice Criticizes Mandatory Minimums

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Mandatory minimum sentences are unfair and take away flexibility needed in the judicial process, said Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer.

“There has to be oil in the gears. … There has to be room for the unusual or the exceptional case,” he told about 550 people Sunday at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, the Associated Press reports.

Breyer said Congress had passed a number of mandatory minimum statutes where “there is no room for flexibility on the downside.”

“That is not a helpful thing to do,” he said. “It’s not going to advance the cause of law enforcement in my opinion and it’s going to set back the cause of fairness in sentencing.”

Last month, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy told the annual meeting of the American Bar Association that he favored scrapping the practice of setting mandatory minimum sentences for some federal crimes, saying that in all too many cases the sentences were unjust.

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