I'm not sure if it's broken or it's often just not fair.
Then again (life isn't fair) either.
One of the problems with the legal system in many people's eyes is it's (not uniform across the board). There are numerous variables such as the jury one gets, the judge one gets, the lawyer that one can afford, and the state in which the crime was committed.
For instance a 30 year old man having sex with a 16 year old girl in California could go to jail for statutory rape. However if it took place in Hawaii the legal age of consent is 16. Are girls in Hawaii that much more mature than those that live in California?
Some states have the death penalty and other states do not.
Another example might be one person gets caught with 2 grams of powdered cocaine and the other gets caught with 2 grams of rock/crack cocaine. The one with the crack gets a stiffer jail sentence.
The U.S. imprisons more of it's citizens than any other nation.
Both Republicans and Democrats are considering prison reform.
A major cause for a lot discrepancies in punishment can be attributed to President Bill Clinton's crime bill and various states "3 strikes" laws.
A person who had committed two crimes prior would get an automatic term sentence for their third crime even if was for shoplifting a pack of gum! A study was done by the Vera Institute of Justice in 2012 which revealed the annual average taxpayer cost in these states was $31,286 per inmate. New York State was the most expensive, with an average cost of $60,000 per prison inmate. (Roughly $39 Billion per year) Tax payers also simply can't afford to keep paying to take care of non-violent inmates and low level criminals long-term.
Mandatory Sentencing oftentimes defies logic and commonsense.