Welcome to Clip from Spiral logo

Interactive video lesson plan for: How mandatory minimums helped drive mass incarceration

Activity overview:

Mandatory minimums were supposed to help crack down on drug crime in the 80s. But they've had huge unintended consequences.

10 charts that show the racism of US criminal justice:
Senator Cory Booker on "caste system" criminal justice:

Subscribe to our channel!

These statutes dictate specific prison terms for certain crimes deemed uniquely harmful to society. By design, they bar judges from using discretion during sentencing. Minimums have been around since America’s founding, but the most consequential ones were erected in the 1980s in response to the ravages of the inner-city drug trade. The idea was to establish uniformly stringent punishments to both deter drug offenses and lock away kingpins. And a central feature of this framework was the now infamous minimum sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine violations.

The US government created a 100-to-1 minimum sentence disparity between crack and powder cocaine.

In the US, crack consumption is tied to income, and income is tied to race. So this arbitrary sentencing disparity has forced courts to punish black Americans much more harshly than white Americans for basically the exact same crime. As a result, tens of thousands of young men, most of whom are black, have been snatched up by law enforcement on low-level drug offenses and thrown into prison for mandatory terms that make a mockery of any sense of proportionately. This situation is so absurd that its sparked the formation of a reform coalition composed of the most unlikely of allies, including the Koch brothers, the NAACP, Newt Gingrich, the ACLU, Senator Rand Paul, and the Obama White House.

Fortunately, policymakers have started injecting some common sense into the minimums regime. A landmark 2005 Supreme Court decision afforded federal judges some leeway to stray from dictated terms. A major federal criminal justice package passed in 2010 eliminated minimums for simple crack possession and dramatically ratcheted back the crack-powder sentencing disparity from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1. And President Obama recently wielded the executive commutation power to pardon 46 people serving excessive mandatory terms for nonviolent drug offenses. But there's a still a long way for the US to go to make sentencing fair. is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out to get up to speed on everything from Kurdistan to the Kim Kardashian app.

Check out our full video catalog:
Follow Vox on Twitter:
Or on Facebook:

Tagged under: vox,news,current events,world,cnn,vice,fox,msnbc,breakdown,eli5,Mandatory Sentencing,Racism (Quotation Subject),criminal justice,mass incarceration,Incarceration In The United States,United States Incarceration Rate,United States Of America (Country)

Clip makes it super easy to turn any public video into a formative assessment activity in your classroom.

Add multiple choice quizzes, questions and browse hundreds of approved, video lesson ideas for Clip

Make YouTube one of your teaching aids - Works perfectly with lesson micro-teaching plans

Play this activity

1. Students enter a simple code

2. You play the video

3. The students comment

4. You review and reflect

* Whiteboard required for teacher-paced activities

Share on:

Share How mandatory minimums helped drive mass incarceration on Google+ Share How mandatory minimums helped drive mass incarceration on Twitter Share How mandatory minimums helped drive mass incarceration on Facebook Pin How mandatory minimums helped drive mass incarceration Email How mandatory minimums helped drive mass incarceration

Ready to see what else Spiral logo can do?

With four apps, each designed around existing classroom activities, Spiral gives you the power to do formative assessment with anything you teach.


Carry out a quickfire formative assessment to see what the whole class is thinking


Create interactive presentations to spark creativity in class

Team Up

Student teams can create and share collaborative presentations from linked devices


Turn any public video into a live chat with questions and quizzes

1000s of teachers use Spiral to deliver awesome, engaging activities that capture students' understanding during lessons.

Now it's your turn Sign up

Spiral Reviews by Teachers and Digital Learning Coaches

Review of Spiral by teacher: Kathryn Laster @kklaster

Tried out the canvas response option on @SpiralEducation & it's so awesome! Add text or drawings AND annotate an image! #R10tech

Review of Spiral by teacher: Room 220 Math Stars @3rdgradeBCE

Using @SpiralEducation in class for math review. Student approved! Thumbs up! Thanks.

Review of Spiral by teacher: Miss Ord @ordmiss

Absolutely amazing collaboration from year 10 today. 100% engagement and constant smiles from all #lovetsla #spiral

Review of Spiral by teacher: Adam J. Stryker @strykerstennis

Students show better Interpersonal Writing skills than Speaking via @SpiralEducation Great #data #langchat folks!

Review of Spiral by teacher: Dr Ayla Göl @iladylayla

A good tool for supporting active #learning.

Review of Spiral by teacher: Brett Erenberg @BrettErenberg

The Team Up app is unlike anything I have ever seen. You left NOTHING out! So impressed!

Get the Clip Chrome Extension & Create Video Lessons in Seconds

Add Clip to Chrome