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

Summary

This publication assesses the impact of mandatory minimum penalties on federal sentencing.  It continues the Commission’s work in this area by highlighting recent developments regarding the charging of offenses carrying a mandatory minimum penalty, and providing updated sentencing data regarding the use and impact of mandatory minimum penalties.  This publication builds on the Commission’s previous reports and publications—particularly, its 2011 Report to the Congress: Mandatory Minimum Penalties in the Federal Criminal Justice System—and is intended to contribute to the continued examination of federal mandatory minimum penalties.  It is the first in a series, with future publications focusing on mandatory minimum penalties for specific offense types.

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Report Highlights

As part of this overview analysis the Commission makes the following key findings:

  • Mandatory minimum penalties continue to result in long sentences in the federal system.

  • Mandatory minimum penalties continue to have a significant impact on the size and composition of the federal prison population.
  • Offenses carrying a mandatory minimum penalty were used less often, as the number and percentage of offenders convicted of an offense carrying a mandatory minimum penalty has decreased since fiscal year 2010.

  • While fewer offenders were convicted of an offense carrying a mandatory minimum penalty in recent years, those who were tended to be more serious offenders.

  • There were significant demographic shifts in the data relating to mandatory minimum penalties.