Many get-tough approaches to crime don’t work and some, such as mandatory minimum sentences for small-time drug offenders, are unfair and should be abolished, an American Bar Association panel said today. The Associated Press reports that the ABA group concluded that state and federal laws requiring mandatory minimum terms leave little room to consider differences among crimes and criminals. More people are behind bars for longer terms, but it is unclear whether the country is safer, said the group.
The report, nearly a year in the making, follows up on criticism of the criminal justice system last year from Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who asked the ABA to look at what he called unfair and even immoral practices throughout the criminal justice system. Leaders of the ABA, with 400,000 members, will vote in August on whether to adopt the recommendations as official positions. “For more than 20 years, we have gotten tougher on crime,” said ABA President Dennis Archer. “Now we need to get smarter.”