Mandatory Sentencing Essay

1776 words - 7 pages

Mandatory sentencing is not anything new. It began in the 1970s. The main purpose for mandatory sentencing was to try to get rid of the drug lords and to eliminate most of the nation’s street drug selling. It was to impose that the same crime would have the same sentence all over the nation. Some of the negatives that rose from mandatory sentencing were nonviolent drug offenders and first time offenders who were receiving harsh sentences. Inmate populations and correction costs increased and pushed states to build more prisons. Judges were overloaded with these cases, and lengthy prison terms were mandated to these young offenders. Mandatory sentencing is an interesting topic in which I would like to discuss my opinions in going against mandatory sentencing. I will show the reasons for this topic, as well as give you my personal brief on which I support.
To begin, Mandatory minimum sentences result in prison overcrowding, and based on several studies, it does not alleviate crime, for example crimes such as shoplifting or solicitation. These sentencing guidelines do not allow a judge to take into consideration the first time offender, differentiate the deviance level of the offender, and it does not allow for the judge to alter a punishment or judgment to each individual case. When mandatory sentencing came into effect, the drug lords they were trying to stop are not the ones being affected by the sentences. It is the nonviolent, low-level drug users who are overcrowding the prisons as a result of these sentences. Both the U.S. Sentencing Commission and the Department of Justice have determined that mandatory sentencing is not an effective way to deter crime. Studies show that mandatory minimums have gone downhill due to racial and gender disparities which caused prison overcrowding that are costly. It modifies from judges making decisions to now the prosecutors prosecuting. Prosecutors operate without accountability and fail to punish high-level dealers and this does not eliminate sentencing disparities. Furthermore, mandatory sentences are responsible for sending many women and people of color to prison. Also, it was thought that harsher, mandatory sentences would serve as a greater deterrent, making it less likely that offenders would re-offend.
In addition to overcrowded prisons and sentencing disparities, I read an article that involves the state of Oregon’s prisons. It states that prosecutors were getting more and more cases and sending the lower level offenders to prison as well as those with nonviolent criminal histories. Many of those offenders were eligible for probation, but were not getting that option. In 1994-1998, the number of cases that were charged with lower level offenses were sentenced to prison and those sentences were nearly doubled (Barker 2006.) This is what caused Oregon's prison population to increase over time. Although some of the prison’s population growth was not due to Measure 11's mandatory penalties. As stated...

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