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Mandatory Minimums Bibliography

Websites — Affirmative

Families Against Mandatory Minimums

General Articles

Mandatory Minimum Penalties (2019)

Federal Mandatory Minimums: Safety Valve and Substantial Assistance Exceptions (2019)

Sentencing and Mandatory Minimums (2018)

Federal sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimums (2018)

The State of Mandatory Minimums: Federal Report (2017)

An Overview of Mandatory Minimum Penalties in the Federal Criminal Justice System (2017)

Mandatory Minimum sentences for sex offenses  (2019)

Federal Mandatory Minimums for Sex Offensess (2019)

Federal Mandatory Minimums for Drug Offenses (2017)

Easing mandatory minimums will not be enough (2016)

Mandatory minimum sentencing of federal drug offenses (2018)

Commentary on Judicial Discretion, Mandatory Minimums, Sentencing Reforms (2018)

William Barr’s new war on drugs (2018)

Impact of mandatory minimums on federal sentencing (2016)


Mandatory minimums are cruel and innefectie (2017)

Sentencing laws and how they contribute to mass incarceration

Sentencing and Mandatory Minimums

Are mandatory minimums cost-effective? (2018)

The injustice of mandatory minimums (2018)

Mandatory Minimums, Crime, and Drug Abuse (2018)

Mandatory minimums enable police brutality (2019)

Mandatory minimums harm children (2019)

Unintended Consequences of Mandatory Minimums (2019)

District attorneys are blocking mandatory minimum reforms (2019)

Racial Disparities in Federal Sentencing: Evidence from Drug Mandatory Minimums (2019).  I test for racial disparities in the criminal justice system by analyzing abnormal bunching in the distribution of crack-cocaine amounts used in federal sentencing. I compare cases sentenced before and after the Fair Sentencing Act, a 2010 law that changed the 10-year mandatory minimum threshold for crack-cocaine from 50g to 280g. First, I find that after 2010, there is a sharp increase in the fraction of cases sentenced at 280g (the point that now triggers a 10-year mandatory minimum), and that this increase is disproportionately large for black and Hispanic offenders. I then explore several possible

explanations for the observed racial disparities, including discrimination. I analyze data from multiple stages in the criminal justice system and find that the increased bunching for minority offenders is driven by prosecutorial discretion, specifically as used by about 20-30% of prosecutors. Moreover, the fraction of cases at 280g falls in 2013 when evidentiary standards become stricter. Finally, the racial disparity in the increase cannot be explained by differences in education, sex, age, criminal history, seized drug amount, or other elements of the crime, but it can be almost entirely explained by a measure of state-level racial animus. These results shed light on the role of prosecutorial discretion and potentially racial discrimination as causes of racial disparities in sentencing.

Mistakes we made with mandatory minimums (2018)

Mandatory minimums in the war on drugs (2018).  Mandatory minimum sentencing provisions have been a feature of the US justice system since 1790. But they have expanded considerably under the war on drugs, and their use has expanded considerably under the Trump Administration; some states are also poised to expand drug-related mandatory minimums further in efforts to fight the current opioid epidemic. In this chapter I outline and evaluate three prominent arguments for and against the use of mandatory minimums in the war on drugs—they appeal, respectively, to proportionality, consistency, and efficiency. I ultimately defend the view that the use of mandatory minimums in the war on drugs is unjust.

Mandatory Minimums for fentanyl are a bad idea (2018)

Mandatory minimums and sentencing reform (2018)
Opioids are the new black (2020). The crack epidemic swept through the black community in the United States in the early 1980s. Despite the increasing use of powder cocaine in metropolitan areas and suburbs, the “crackheads” giving birth to “crack babies” were subject to narratives that portrayed black drug users as a threat to others, which was to be contained rather than treated. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 created stricter penalties for users. The mandatory minimums disproportionately incarcerated African Americans and adversely impacted a number of urban neighborhoods. The psychology driving the mandate to incarcerate African American, impoverished drug addicts relied on tales of gang warfare, laziness, and child neglect Now, the opioid crisis is considered a national emergency, as declared by President Trump in October 2017. The users of these drugs span an economic and racial spectrum, with a particular emphasis in rural communities. For example, one in seven opioid users in Ohio is a construction worker. The employment of crack addicts in the 1980s was not a subject of research, legislation, or news This Article examines the importance of stories, particularly those with racial tropes, in the creation and enforcement of drug legislation. The environments in which crack was prevalent are marked by economic distress. Disinvestment and high poverty rates in these low-income, minority neighborhoods are more commonly framed as personal failures by criminals. The story of opioids is centered on a group of people who can be saved through healthcare, treatment, and leniency. If the stories of crack addicts focused on victims of external circumstances rather than villains by individual choice, it is likely that the persistence of poverty in African American neighborhoods would have a different ending

Affirmative – Juveniles

Mandatory Minimums, Maximum Sentences (2018)

Affirmative – Solvency

Reforming mandatory minimums

Trump backs reforms bill that shortens mandatory minimums (2019)

Criminal justice reform is having a long overdue moment (2019)

The time does not fit the crime (2018)

A federal judge says mandatory minimums often don’t fit the crime (2017)

Coalition urges next steps in sentencing reform (2019)

A Return To Rehabilitation: Mandatory Minimum Sentencing in an Era Of Mass Incaraceration  (2015). In 2013 Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the Smarter Sentencing Act to decrease mandatory minimum sentences for federal drug crimes and enlarge the existing safety valve for federal drug offenses.1 The Smarter Sentencing Act reduces the statutory minimum sentence of specific federal drug offenses and permits judges to deviate from mandatory minimum sentences for controlled sub- stance offenses under certain circumstances.2 Similarly in 2013, Senators Leahy and Rand Paul (R-KY), as well as Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Thomas Massie (R-KY), introduced the Justice Safety Valve Act.3 The Justice Safety Valve Act would give judges more discretion in sentencing by permitting judges to sentence offenders below the mandatory minimum sentence when such sentence would not meet one of the requisite goals of punishment.4 Both acts aim to deter crime through more efficient means while reducing federal prison expenditure and the federal inmate population.


Former prosecutor on why he supports mandatory minimums (2019)

Why do critics of mandatory minimums support them when the drug is fentanyl (2020)

Mandatory minimums don’t deserve your ire (2017)

Mandatory Minimums are unpopular with everyone, except mayors of gun ravages cities (2019)

Mandatory Minimum sentences decline (2017)

Mandatory minimums and the sentencing of federal drug crimes (2017).  The US federal mandatory minimum sentences are controversial not only because of the length of the mandatory sentences for even first-time offenders but also because eligibility quantities for crack cocaine crimes are small compared with those for other drug offenses. This paper shows that the impact of these mandatory minimums on sentencing is quite nuanced. A large fraction of mandatory-minimum-eligible offenders, particularly first timers, are able to avoid these mandatory minimums. Moreover, despite lower eligibility thresholds for crack-related offenses, a smaller fraction of those convicted of crack-related offenses are eligible for mandatory minimums relative to those convicted of other drug offenses. Furthermore, while being just eligible for a mandatory minimum increases sentence length on average, the impact is not uniform across drug offenses. Notably, sentences for crack offenders are generally sufficiently long such that, on average, sentences for crack offenders are not impacted by eligibility for a mandatory minimum.


Tacking “very unfair” drug policies could help Trump win (2020)


Mass Incarceration is Dead, Long Live the Carceral State (2020).

Debt Bondage: How Private Collection Agencies Keep the Formerly Incarcerated Tethered to the Criminal Justice System (2020).   This Article examines the constitutionality of statutes which allow courts to transfer outstanding legal financial obligations to private debt collection agencies. In Washington State, the clerk of courts can transfer the legal financial obligation of a formerly incarcerated person if he or she is only thirty days late making a payment. Upon transfer, the debt collection agencies can assess a “collection fee” of up to 50% of the first $100.000 of the unpaid legal financial obligation, and up to 35% of the unpaid debt over $100,000. This fee becomes part of the LFO debt imposed at sentencing, and like that debt, must also be paid in full. Interest accrues at 12% per annum, there is no account for a LFO debtor’s indigence or ability to pay, and the collection fee is not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Not only do these collection fees further consign a formerly incarcerated person to a lifetime of poverty and exacerbate already-severe barriers to community re-entry, but they increase the risks for re-arrest and re-incarceration. Equally troubling is that these fees extend the time during which an ex-offender is tethered to the criminal justice system. This Article argues that Washington State’s collection agency referral law, and similar laws in other states, may violate constitutional due process and excessive fine edicts.