Mandatory minimum sentences are pre-prescribed sentences for particular crimes that include and require a minimum period of incarceration. For more serious crimes, it would appear that mandatory minimums are a good idea. All too often, our court system allows people who have clearly committed crimes to go free of punishment. In this way, imposing a mandatory and non-negotiable sentence prohibits courts from allowing these people to receive reduced punishments. But what about mandatory sentences for more minor crimes?
I am against mandatory minimum sentences and especially for minor crimes. The practice impedes judicial discretion, binds the hands of district attorneys, and precludes defense attorneys from aggressively advocating on behalf of their clients. When an individual is charged with a crime, many times a district attorney and defense attorney are able to work together and settle the issue before it reaches the judge. With docket sheets crowded and state judicial funds running thin, it is important to preserve judicial economy. Imposing mandatory minimum sentences, however, contravenes judicial economy. Instead of supporting a system that is built on the collaborative relationship between district attorney and defense attorney, mandatory minimums removes judicial discretion and often times places individuals in jail that would be better suited for probation, community services, or suspended sentences.
Similarly, it’s not inexpensive to house a criminal in jail or prison. As a matter of fact, CBS News reported that in 2010, the average cost for the state to incarcerate a criminal for one year was $31,307 and could cost as much as $50,000 or $60,000. When one considers how expensive it is to jail someone for a year, it appears that taking another look at practices like the imposition of mandatory minimums makes a lot of sense. Because mandatory minimums force taxpayers to cover the cost of housing criminals in jail for many times more minor crimes, I believe the practice should be disregarded and moved away from.
For the CBS News article, click here.