Earlier this month at a lawyers convention, Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy criticized mandatory minimum sentences, The New York Times reports.
“In too many cases” he said, “mandatory minimum sentences are unwise and unjust.”
Experts disagree about how to determine the most effective length of a prison sentence.
Since California enacted a law requiring tough sentences for many third offenses in 1994, the trend in many states has been toward long, fixed sentences, even for nonviolent crimes.
Now, economic troubles are forcing some states to buck that trend.
Several financially strapped states, including Kansas, Texas and Washington, have eased sentencing laws in the past year, and Michigan scrapped mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses.
Others, including Kansas and California, have new laws mandating drug treatment rather than prison for nonviolent drug offenses.