Americans may be starting to rethink one of the toughest recent anticrime practices: mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, says the Christian Science Monitor. A new survey finds 60 percent of respondents opposing mandatory minimums for nonviolent crimes, including a majority of both Democrats and Republicans. Nearly 80 percent said judges are best qualified to determine sentences for crimes; nearly 60 percent said they’d be likely to vote for a politician who opposed mandatory minimums. “The public is ahead of the politicians on this,” says Julie Stewart, president Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), which commissioned the poll. “This is a message members of Congress haven’t heard.  As a country we believe in individualized justice.”
Not everyone believes mandatory minimums should be changed. Attorney General Michael Mukasey opposed the efforts last year to reduce sentences for crack offenders. The Fraternal Order of Police advocates mandatory minimums as an important deterrent to drug crimes. Says the FOP’s Jim Pasco: “Nothing focuses the mind on consequences like knowing that you’re going to get, for instance, a five-year minimum sentence.” FAMM argues that there’s no evidence mandatory minimums have helped reduce drug crime, and in fact, often focuses law-enforcement efforts on small-time players rather than drug kingpins.