The Bare Minimum

Minimums don’t seem that scary, out of context. It’s the lesser. Maybe even the least. Minimalism, according to The Minimalists, is defined as:

It’s quite simple: to be a minimalist you must live with less than 100 things, you can’t own a car or a home or a television, you can’t have a career, you must live in exotic hard-to-pronounce places all over the world, you must start a blog, you can’t have children, and you must be a young white male from a privileged background.

OK, we’re joking—obviously.

But, what happens when minimums are no laughing matter? What happens when they’re applied to the justice system through sentencing laws?

In the United States, we have some federal laws that require “Mandatory Sentencing” for certain offences, and in many states there are even more. The newest official government amendment on federal mandatory sentencing is from 2017, which defines mandatory minimums as, “a federal criminal statute requiring, upon conviction of a federal criminal offense and the satisfaction of criteria set forth in that statute, the imposition of a specified minimum term of imprisonment.”

Additionally, from 2011, the last time the statutes were amended, there were 5 Key Findings that influenced the 2017 revision:

  1. Mandatory minimum penalties continue to result in long sentences in the federal system.
  2. Mandatory minimum penalties continue to have a significant impact on the size & composition of the federal prison population.
  3. Offences 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.
  4. 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.
  5. There were significant demographic shifts in the data relating to mandatory
    minimum penalties.

According to the Criminal Justice Reform System:

Mandatory minimum sentencing laws force a judge to hand down a minimum prison sentence based on the charges a prosecutor brings against a defendant which result in a conviction — usually a guilty plea. Many states have such laws. These laws take away from a judge the traditional and proper authority to account for the actual circumstances of the crime and the characteristics of the individual defendant when imposing a sentence

For example, there are significant federal mandatory minimum penalties for offenses related to drugs, firearms, child sexual exploitation & identity theft. However, a man named Stephen Gore pled guilty to operating an illegal body & organ donation facility. He was sentenced to only “one year of deferred jail time and four years of probation” (source), but if he had 5G of meth on him it would’ve been 5 years mandatory minimum. Gore had no more than a high school diploma & accepted the deceased from families under the false pretenses that the bodies would be used for scientific research. Upon investigation, police found:

  • buckets full of body parts,
  • a “cooler filled with male genitalia,
  • body parts belonging to different people sewn together and hung up on the wall,”
  • piles of unidentified bodies on the ground,”
  • and “pools of human blood and bodily fluids were found on the floor of the freezer.”

According to the lawsuit, on one wall, Cwynar recalled seeing a woman’s head sewn onto a male torso “like Frankenstein” in what the suit says appeared to be a “morbid joke.”

Stephen Gore needs serious rehabilitation. He needs to be held accountable for the 33 families he’s taken advantage of & disturbed us all through. But he won’t serve any legitimate time for one of the most heinous crimes I’ve ever heard someone admit to committing.

Long story short: Mandatory minimum penalties make it appear as if our justice system cannot operate on its own. And while it’s quite apparent, especially in recent times, that’s ridiculously true.