Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Advantages And Disadvantages

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Mandatory Minimum Sentences Mandatory minimum sentencing laws have been among the more popular crime-fighting measures of recent years. Mandatory minimum sentence refers to the fixed sentence that a judge is forced to deliver to an individual convicted of a crime, neglecting the culpability and other mitigating factors involved in the crime. They are those sentences, which a judicial officer is required to impose no matter what the circumstances of the offence. In other words, the judicial officer has no discretion to impose a higher or lower sentence depending upon the nature of the crime. For example, people convicted of certain crimes must be punished with at least a minimum number of years in prison. Mandatory minimums were designed…show more content…
When a criminal offence has a minimum sentence, the sentencing judge has no discretion but to give the person convicted at least the minimum sentence (MacIntosh, 1952, pg 47-56). Judges of all ideologies have felt that mandatory sentences unduly restrict judges' discretion and lead to unjust sentences (MacIntosh, 1952, pg 47-56). Judges facing harsh mandatory sentencing regimes have admitted to using "'a variety of methods to expand their discretion, including refusing plea bargains, assignment of offenders to probation and community service, creative interpretation of statutes, and recommendations to the probation department to allow alternative placements for mandatory sentences (Greenblatt, 1997). As stated by Robert Batey (2002) in “Mandatory Minimum Sentencing: A Failed Policy,” mandatory minimums take sentencing power away from the judge and give it to the prosecutor, who decides whether to charge the defendant with a crime carrying a long minimum sentence or some lesser offense. In exchange for exercising this discretion in favour of the defendant, the prosecutor expects something from the defendant, if not substantial assistance (by giving testimony, informing on others outside of the courtroom, or participating in dangerous undercover activities), then at least by pleading guilty to the lesser charge (Batey,…show more content…
In the United States the 1990 US Sentencing Commissions report Minimum Mandatory Penalties in the Federal Criminal Justice System was described as demonstrating: "...that mandatory minimum sentencing laws unwarrantedly shift discretion from judges to prosecutors, result in higher trial rates and lengthened case processing times, arbitrarily failed to acknowledge salient differences between cases and often punish minor offenders much more harshly than anyone believes is warranted. Interviews with judges, lawyers and probation officers at twelve sites showed that heavy majorities of judges, defence counsel and probation officers disliked mandatory penalties; prosecutors are about evenly divided. Finally, and perhaps not surprisingly given the other findings, the report shows that judges and lawyers not uncommonly circumvent mandatories." (McColl, n.d, pg

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