Pros and Cons of Sentencing Guidelines and Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Topics: Mandatory sentencing, Criminal justice, Crime Pages: 2 (602 words) Published: May 17, 2007
The United States Sentencing Commission is responsible for sentencing policy in federal courts. In 1980 they reformed the federal sentencing. The intent was to provide determinate sentencing. Determinate sentencing is a fixed period of incarceration without the possibility of parole, but time served can be reduced by accumulating good time. “Coinciding with the development of determinate sentencing has been the development of sentencing guidelines to control and structure the process and make it more rational. Guidelines are usually based on the seriousness of a crime and the background of an offender: The more serious the crime and the more extensive the offender’s criminal background, the longer the prison term recommended by the guidelines.” (Segel & Senna 2006). These guidelines were designed to eliminate judicial discretion and get tough on crime. Mandatory minimum sentences are another method that was designed to limit judicial discretion while maintaining a “get tough on crime” approach. Mandatory sentences are sentences where all people convicted of certain crimes will be punished equally with a set minimum prison term. I believe the intentions were good when these reforms went into place. I think the intended purpose was to get tough on crime, eliminate bias on the part of the judge, to make criminals think twice about breaking the law, and provide equal punishment to all criminals who commit the same crimes. Unfortunately these sentence 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 tailor a punishment to each individual case. The “drug war” they were trying to control with these sentences has had a backfire 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. I think that...

References: Lenz, M. (2006). Lawyers weigh in on changes to law. The Exeter News-Letter. Retrieved on January 10, 2007 from
Montaldo, C. (2007). Mandatory drug sentencing laws. About: Crime/Punishment. Retrieved on January 10, 2007 from
Siegel, L. & Senna, J. (2006) Introduction to Criminal Justice p. 399
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