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The hope for 2017? No mandatory minimum sentences

Regardless of where you stand on party lines, you've likely been paying attention to the top political issues recently and are starting to form your own opinion about which ones you'd like to see spearhead the new president's first term. For some, the economy is their focus. For others, family. For a lot of our readers, the top issue is likely the reform of mandatory minimum sentences.

Here in Virginia, as well as across the country, many people believe that state and federal mandatory minimum sentences do more harm than good because they do not allow a judge to use his or her discretion based on the circumstances of a case. In a lot of cases, young people, including juveniles, are hurt most by mandatory minimum sentences because they oftentimes prevent young people from moving on from their criminal past. And because, in many cases, they have not been properly prepared for life after a conviction, many juvenile criminals find themselves right back in the juvenile justice system.

In addition to potentially creating a situation in which a person could fall right back into the system, mandatory minimum sentences also create an immense tax burden. They also result in overcrowding in prisons, which is another problem plaguing our state and others.

Of the candidates who have discussed mandatory minimum sentences with their platform, it has been said that reducing or altogether eliminating mandatory minimum sentences could be hugely beneficial throughout the country. It's a statement we're sure many of our readers can get behind, especially because it's been proven that treatment and rehabilitation are more effective than incarceration. But with mandatory minimum sentences, rehabilitation and drug treatment programs are oftentimes not the solutions judges can turn to, even if they know they're better options.

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