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2020 Presidential Election

2020 Criminal Justice: Mandatory minimums


  • "Mandatory minimum sentencing laws force a judge to hand down a minimum prison sentence based on the charges..." [Criminal Justice Policy Foundation]
  • If found guilty of a crime under a mandatory minimum, you will receive that minimum prison sentence. 
  • This policy was apart of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. [ACLU]
  • The goal was to create uniform sentencing across the country - same crime, same punishment. [The Brennan Center]
  • Many federal judges dislike mandatory minimum sentences. Deep dive on one opinion here.
  • Some believe mandatory minimum sentences have contributed to mass incarceration levels in the U.S. Deep dive on why here.
  • Some believe mandatory minimum sentences have contributed to false guilty pleas. Deep dive on why here.

President Trump supports and is against mandatory minimums.


President Trump's political opinion appears to be dependent on the situation.



What he's said:

  • In support: President Trump has expressed support for "strong mandatory minimum sentences" for non-citizens with criminal records who re-enter the United States. [PolitiFact]

What he's done:

  • In support: During the Trump administration, the Department of Justice in 2017 called for tougher charges, longer sentences, and reinstituted mandatory minimum sentencing for all crimes. [Reuters]
  • In opposition: President Trump signed the First Step Act in 2019, which eases mandatory minimum rules. [Vox]

Former Vice President Biden is against mandatory minimums. 




What he's said:

Jul. 2019: "I think we’ve had all the mandatory minimums that we need. We don’t need the ones that we have," [Vox]


Biden promises to eliminate mandatory minimums for non-violent crimes. 


Biden believes the legislative process will not work; therefore will institute a competitive grant program to incentivize states to shift away from incarceration to prevention. [Joe Biden Campaign]



What he's done:

During the Obama-Biden administration, the Department of Justice worked to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug crimes. [Reuters]


In 1986, Biden sponsored a law requiring five-year mandatory minimum sentencing for trafficking crack-cocaine. 


In 2010, the Obama-Biden administration signed the Fair Sentencing Act that reformed the sentencing guidelines to be a larger amount of crack-cocaine. [The Washington Post]

2020 Topics:


Key Vocabulary