Generally speaking, the American people equate prison sentences and fines with justice -- the higher the sentence or the larger the fine, the greater the measure of justice achieved. Obviously, not everybody looks at it that way, and even those who do can from time to time look at a hefty sentence or fine and go, "Whoah, that's too much." Regardless, that general observation holds true in most cases.
The proof of that is to be found in how our politicians from coast to coast talk about crime and punishment -- "tough on crime" is a desirable stamp to claim for oneself, and always translates to an expansion of the number of criminal offenses, longer sentences, mandatory minimums, and ultimately higher arrest and prosecution rates. To resist any of these in any way, or to fail to promote their expansion in some way, is to run the risk of being branded "soft on crime."
The public as a whole wants more ways for the government to criminalize and arrest people, and wants convicts to suffer stiffer penalties -- and so our politicians duel with each other in an endless tennis match of more-is-better.