List of Pros and Cons of Mandatory Sentencing
One of the main reasons as to why the judicial system implemented mandatory sentencing is to help deter repeat offenders from committing the same crimes over and over. In some jurisdictions they may also be in place to prevent particular crimes from ever being committed, ranging from drug to gun crimes. Overall, the purpose of mandatory sentencing is to ensure that committing a crime seems more disadvantageous than beneficial, deterring people from taking the steps to become a criminal. Though it is important to note that there are both pros and cons to any legal system, particularly mandatory sentencing.
List of Pros of Mandatory Sentencing
1. Eliminating Personal Bias
A large concern that the general public has in terms of sentencing is bias. There are over 300 million people in the United States alone and they all have their own opinion on certain matters. For example, a jury may feel one way about gun violence whereas the judge feels another. This isn’t something that fades away when it comes to the judicial system. Even though we would like to assume that people can operate without bias, it’s simply impossible. With mandatory sentencing, every party gets the same amount of time in jail without having to worry about personal bias being a factor.
2. Eliminating Sympathy
As human beings we are riddled with emotions and as you sit through a trial and hear someone else’s side to the story, it might not change the fact that they did it but it can surely make the jury feel sympathetic towards the offender. Often this can result in lesser sentencing even though they still did commit a heinous act. With mandatory sentencing there’s a guarantee that every offender is required to spend a certain amount of time away, regardless of how well his or her lawyers tell the story.
3. Potential Decrease In Crime
This is a fact that should be studied thoroughly but the intent of a mandatory sentence is to deter criminals from taking the step do so something that could affect themselves or others. If someone is interested in selling drugs, for example, with a mandatory sentence of 10-25 years, they may be less likely to sell drugs. In the 1980s when mandatory sentencing became a concrete aspect of the judicial system, there was a large drop in crime rates across all categories of offending.
List of Cons of Mandatory Sentencing
1. Shifting Personal Bias
It is important to remember that although you are eliminating bias from the judge and jury, someone is still required to set the mandatory sentence for crimes, mainly prosecutors. This has the potential for simply shifting the bias onto another party instead of getting rid of it all together. With any case, the prosecutor will be responsible for controlling the sentence as they can decide whether they want to charge the individual with a crime that offers a mandatory sentence or not.
2. Creating Coercion
One of the main issues with the judicial system is inconsistency and when you implement mandatory sentencing, it only helps to make it more difficult to get the concrete truth out of offenders. This type of coercion negatively impacts not only the legal field, but other people in the world as well. If a first time offender is put in a position where they are charged with a mandatory sentence, they are more likely to say and/or do absolutely anything to cut their time down. This could mean confessing to false truths or even shifting the blame onto other people that didn’t have anything to do with the crime in the first place. Many people find that the information obtained during a mandatory sentencing is questionable, at best.
3. Creating Unjust Sentences
It is important to remember that although someone may commit the same type of crime as someone else, it doesn’t mean that they committed the crime to the same severity. This is a large part of mandatory sentencing that is consistently argued between the judicial system and human rights parties. Imagine that a mother stole $100 worth of money from her job as a cashier and is sentenced to 10 years in prison. Then another woman decides to steal $2000 from her work and is also sentenced to 10 years. Both women should be charged with theft but should they receive the same time behind bars? Creating mandatory sentencing takes away the ability to work with the law in order to make sure that people receive the time in jail that they deserve, rather than putting them into a general category and making them spend incredulous amounts of time in jail when it might not be necessary.
It is important to remember that any judicial system is going to have flaws, simply because nothing is perfect. The goal of a mandatory sentencing is to prevent offenders from committing crimes, but there are downfalls that should also be taken into consideration.