Mandatory sentencing has been observed in a variety of jurisdictions as a deterrent for criminals to repeat their offences. It has also been incorporated into certain statutes to stop specific crimes from happening, such as those related to drugs or guns. Its goal is to make the consequences of committing crimes less beneficial than the perceived rewards. Sometimes, the system works very well, but its benefits are not always so apparent in other times. There are certainly some definite pros and cons to mandatory sentencing, and here are some of them:
List of Pros of Mandatory Sentencing
1. It is helpful in eliminating personal bias.
In the US, each of the 300 million people have a unique opinion on any given subject, and this is true in any justice system. For mandatory sentencing, it helps create a standard of justice that can be applied equally to all parties that are charged with similar crimes.
2. It does not include the sympathy factor.
Of course, every person deserves a fair chance, but a very lenient sentence would almost make it seem like offenders will just get away with their crimes. But with mandatory sentencing, uniform sentences are guaranteed throughout the justice system, so offenders will be punished based upon their overall moral culpability.
3. It helps with decreasing crime.
When mandatory sentencing was first implemented in the US justice system in the 1980s, there was a significant decline in crime throughout all categories as the sentences were handed down.
List of Cons of Mandatory Sentencing
1. It triggers a shift in personal bias.
Sentencing used to be in the hands of a jury or judge, but with mandatory sentencing, a guilty verdict would mean that prosecutors are given more control of the sentence the offenders would receive. They have the power to choose whether or not to charge the offenders the crime that carries a minimum mandatory sentence.
2. It encourages an environment where coercion exists.
When low-level criminals are threatened with high-level mandatory sentences, they would often say or do something to get out of multiple years serving in prison. In theory, mandatory minimum sentences can help law-enforcement officials to move up the chain of command in organized crime. However, the accuracy of the information they receive might be questionable.
3. In some cases, it creates unjust sentences
In one certain case, a desperate mother of four children was paid 100 dollars to send an unknown package to someone, without knowing that it contained crack cocaine. After being caught, the judge sentenced her to a 10-year mandatory sentence as dictated by law. Though, the judge felt it was irrational and unjust.
It is important to note that any judicial system can have flaws and imperfections. The goal of mandatory sentencing is definitely worthwhile to achieve, and if we are willing to take its pros and cons together and find a middle ground, then we can make its guidelines to have common sense areas of exceptions so justice can always be served.