Arguments For Mandatory Sentencing Laws

Supporters of mandatory sentences are not troubled by the harshness of the laws or the fact that they shift power from the judge to the prosecutor. One of the goals of such laws is to assure that the mandated sentence will be imposed whether the judge agrees with the sentence or not. Supporters are troubled by deceptive efforts of judges (and sometimes of prosecutors) to avoid applying them. They argue that judges are wrong to try to circumvent mandatories, that if legislatures pass laws, judges should enforce them whether or not they agree with them. Finally, supporters say they are sorry if mandatory sentencing affects guilty pleas, trial rates, and court delays, but they regard those problems as a price worth paying.

Proponents of mandatory sentencing laws make four arguments. First, that the laws allow legislators to assure citizens their concerns are being taken seriously. Second, that harsh mandatory sentencing laws deter offenders from committing crimes. Third, that certain crimes are so serious that people who commit them should be severely punished and that legislators should insist judges impose severe penalties in such cases. Fourth, that mandatory sentencing laws are a device for assuring that offenders who commit the same crime will receive the same penalty.

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