It’s no secret that many elements of the criminal justice system have imposed unfair prison sentences, especially enhancements that can add decades to the total time served in prison. This has led to overcrowded prisons, disproportionately affecting people of color and those suffering from mental illnesses.
Sentence enhancements are not related to the original crime, rather, they are add-ons based on how the crime was committed and the nature of the circumstances involving the crime. For example, using a firearm to commit a robbery can add anywhere between 10 and 20 years, while any association with organized crime could result in two to 10 more years in prison. The latter depends on the severity of the offense.
Like many aspects of the criminal justice system, there is a large degree of variation in how certain crimes are interpreted. For example, it is alleged that California’s current sentencing enhancement laws disproportionately affect people of color and those with mental illnesses. It is worth mentioning that judges have the legal ability to dismiss sentence enhancements, but they rarely do so.