Mandatory minimum sentencing has a big impact on how criminal defense lawyers handle cases. In some cases, mandatory minimum sentencing leads to a greater number of incarcerations because of the number of people willing to plead guilty and accept plea bargains in order to avoid the consequences of mandatory minimums.

A new immigration bill before congress could increase the number of people incarcerated in federal prisons and also possibly further lead to racial disparities in the prison population. Kate’s Law or the Establishing Mandatory Minimums for Illegal Reentry Act of 2015 would impose mandatory minimum sentences of five years for any illegal alien who is deported who then returns to the U.S.

The Atlantic reports that estimates provided by the U.S. Sentencing Commission suggest that this bill, if passed into law, could increase the federal prison population by 57,000.

Kate’s Law is meant to address a gap in immigration law that many argue led to the death of Kate Steinle in San Francisco. Her killer was a convicted felon who had entered the U.S. illegally. Yet, is imposing a wholesale mandatory minimum sentencing law on all illegal immigrants criminalizing those who may not be convicted felons?

For individuals facing mandatory minimum sentencing, criminal defense lawyers such as Sam Muldavin with Muldavin Law Firm in Memphis, TN  sometimes have to make the difficult decisions of whether to counsel their clients to take a plea deal instead of facing sometimes draconian sentencing requirements if the case loses in court. While every case is unique, some argue that mandatory minimum sentencing requirements coerce more innocent individuals to plea guilty to crimes they did not commit. While plea deals may save Tennessee in court costs and fees, the question remains—do they protect the rights of the public? Are they in the best interest of justice?

Currently, undocumented immigrants serve anywhere from 15 to 18 months before they are deported. Kate’s Law could cost federal prisons an additional $2 billion each year. For illegal immigration critics who argue that illegal immigration places an undue tax burden on Americans, it seems that subjecting illegal immigrants to longer prison sentences only exacerbates this tax burden. Furthermore, the argument that mandatory minimums will reduce crime doesn’t quite hold. The Wall Street Journal reports that immigrants are actually less likely to commit crimes than the general population.

Are there better ways to deal with illegal immigration rather than to criminalize it? Kate’s Law could eliminate all savings of criminal justice reform.

Many argue that criminal justice reform also needs to expand its scope. According to a Fox News article, more inmates are imprisoned in local jails than federal prisons. Local jails can sometimes hold as many as 20 times more inmates. In some cases, individuals are held because they suffer from mental illness. In other cases, individuals are held because they are unable to pay bail.

Proper immigration reform, choosing treatment instead of incarceration for drug offenses and for cases where mental illness is a component, are all ways that the criminal justice system can be reformed in Tennessee. For those who have been charged with a crime, having the ability to hire a criminal defense law firm like is also helpful. A criminal defense lawyer in Tennessee may be able to help clients serve reduced sentences or avoid jail time. And, in other instances, a qualified criminal defense lawyer can build a case that shows a client’s innocence. Too often, individuals face long jail terms for non-violent crimes. Or, they face incarceration for crimes they did not commit.