Examine this bill that would grant federal judges the discretion to issue sentences shorter than those established by mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines.
In response to a decades-long increase in crime, the US government enacted measures that, since the 1980s, have increased the American prison population by over 700%. Among these measures are mandatory minimum sentencing laws, which require judges to hand down prison sentences of certain lengths for certain offenses, regardless of the specifics of each case. In this lesson, students can join the debate over whether these sentencing laws should be changed to combat the problem of mass incarceration in the United States. Should judges have more discretion in sentencing? Are our laws arbitrary and unjust? Or do we need draconian measures to prevent another surge in crime? Students can wrestle with these questions as they explore the Justice Safety Valve Act.
Use this lesson plan to explore the issue and prepare to conduct a Senate debate on a related bill.