Mandatory Sentencing Public Policy Crime and Criminal Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Mandatory Sentencing

Public policy, crime, and criminal justice

Mandatory Sentencing: Case Study Critique

The prime grounds of mandatory sentencing laws are utilitarian. The laws come with long prison sentences for recidivists, drug dealers and isolation of violent criminals from the community aiming at preventing them from committing additional crimes outside the prison walls. In addition, the design of mandatory sentencing aim at deterring and portraying a harsh reflection to potential offenders of the harsh consequences that awaits them in case they commit a crime. The lawmakers have made imprisonment both surer and more severe in order to respond to constituent issues concerning crime and safety, and to achieve the wide intention of general criminal deterrence.

The forbidding of courts from suspending trials or placing offenders on probation makes imprisonment more probable. Into the bargain, the increase in statutory devices raises the severity of sentences. Some statutes, for instance, require the sentenced offender to serve a mandatory minimum prison term that otherwise would not apply to the commission of the crime. In addition, other provisions increase both the statutory minimum and maximum sentences that the court would finally impose. Some other statutes require consecutive sentences for the underlying offense and the initiating situation.

In other cases, statutes increase the severity by restricting administrative discretion, by either impeding or eliminating parole eligibility, or by forbidding sentence credit for exceptional behavior while serving in prison. However, most of the statutes combine many of the elements hence requiring judges to sentence offenders to prison and ensure that the incarceration is lengthy. In so doing, it helps in achieving deterrence and incapacitation, without regard to judicious punishment in individual trials. This concept of mandatory sentencing is not new because the colonial laws developed fixed penalties for many criminal offenses and allowed courts little or no flexibility when imposing punishment in individual cases.


The current mandatory sentences vary from the fixed sentences imposed during the colonial times. Most of the current laws do not impose the sentences for criminal offenders themselves, but instead, it requires an increased punishment when a situation comes up in connection with the commission of an offence. For instance, the law forbids trafficking for particular drugs, such as cocaine. The common sentencing for a first violation for the statute of this crime is imprisonment without a minimum term and a maximum term for up to twenty years in prison (Akuno and Eisen, 2013). The aim of mandatory sentencing is to achieve an increased minimum sentence with no imprisonment to five years and then to ten years and assure that sentenced offenders serve significant prison terms.

In addition, the mandatory sentences aim to eliminate the application of probation and suspended sentences. Additionally, a broad variety of situations initiates modified penalties according to the statutes. Most authorities have accepted provisions that require an individual to serve longer prisoner sentences when an individual is in possession or uses dangerous weapons during the execution of a crime. Some general targets of mandatory sentences are individuals who have or circulate forbidden drugs that exceed a certain amount, those who commit violent offences against vulnerable such as children, the aged people and those who commit offenses while released from prison for other crimes (Bjerk, 2005). Since the proliferation of mandatory sentences, the prison populations have increased dramatically. Mainly, this happens because the mandatory sentences give prosecutions substantial advantage when it comes to bargaining.

For instance, a prosecutor can charge a serious mandatory sentence enhancement that a court will have to deliver if an offender faces conviction during a trial. The harsher the sentence the offender risks facing trial, the higher the prosecutorial power to dictate the terms of plea agreements. Therefore, a prosecutor can make an offender plead guilty to severe punitive terms than an offender would have objected (Cohen and Doob, 1990). This means that the law has increased the determinate sentencing ranges and has endorsed mandatory sentencing in reaction to political pressures from constituents. The mandatory sentence leads to variations embodied in the legislative judgments concerning deterrence and serious mandatory sentences. In addition, by their very nature they also influence and change the processes of the criminal legal system.

Purpose of this critique

Mandatory sentencing is applicable in a wide range of crimes such as murder, drug trafficking, and many other offences. For this particular paper, I chose drug trafficking as the area of focus. Therefore, this paper will analyze a drug trafficking case study to provide a critique paper on mandatory sentencing.

Theoretical and conceptual issues

The primary aim of this critique was to evaluate the utilitarian elements of the mandatory sentences; that is the probable crime preventive advantages of such sentences. As suggested by the law, some of the benefits can come up via incapacitation, deterrence, denunciation or education. Owing to the fact that sentences already tend to exist in areas where mandatory sentences apply (such as murder, gun related crimes, impaired driving) illustrating that a given mandatory sentence has an absolute deterrent or incapacitation affect is inadequate. Therefore, it is apparent that there is a need to establish additional benefits of incorporating mandatory sentences in crimes.

In addition, owing to some of the preventive nature of the mandatory sentences, it is significant to establish the effect of the severity of sentences. For instance, if the perceived severity will result in fewer guilty pleas and most cases progressing to trial (Alexander, 2010). There arises an issue because mandatory sentences apply to a broad range of sanctions in the globe, from mandatory license restrictions, imposed fines for impaired driving to mandatory life provisions and even calling for death penalties for particular groups of cases. Therefore, from a persona perspective, the mandatory sentencing regime has only brought about more problems. I suggest that, different levels of severity will need separate consideration instead of perceiving them from an equal view (Van Dine, Dinitz and Conrad, 1979).

Review of literature

From a policy point-of-view, the trends of literature concerning mandatory minimum drug sentencing are profusely negative. In addition, most of the studies comment that mandatory minimum sentencing requirements represent the result towards the War on Drugs. Some of the impacts of the drug war including detrimental impacts on people of color and the poor are some of the issues of debate among policy makers. Advocates of mandatory minimum sentencing and the fight against drugs tend to believe that drug policies overall impacts on the society has yielded beneficial outcomes (Anderson, 2006). Additionally, those who support mandatory minimum sentencing reflect their support of the Drug War in general. Some of the advocates and supporters include police agencies, substance prohibition groups and anti-drug jurists.

However, there are opponents of the drug war; mandatory sentencing and drug crime prejudices suggest that the costs had catastrophic impacts on the nation. Additionally, the cost has affected people from different races and the poor. This is because their rationale for subsequent opposition divides the opponents. Additionally, a look at the survey conducted by the Rand Drug Policy Research Center, the drug way eats substantially into finances on penalization and enforcement than reduction and prevention. Again, when considering the money spent on the aspects, the methodological approach, applied for execution is inadequate making it ineffective. Additionally, the study concluded that even with an increased expenditure, the gain in reducing illegal drug usage would not show significant change (Caulkins and Rand Drug Policy Research Center, 1997).

The drug war perpetuation by judges and prosecutors has not intentionally ruled by bias based on race. Instead, the drug war's racial animus is institutional and judges know that their promulgation is discriminatory when utilizing mandatory minimum sentencing standards as outlined in the law, but they have not challenged the laws, which they know have bias. In a personal perspective, I think that the drug war was purposefully endorsed for racial policy, so as to damper the political and social stance of individual based on color. Other opponents have a similar disregard of mandatory minimum requirements and drug laws, but they base their argument from a different point-of-view (McDowell, Loftin and Wiersema, 1992). Some assert that the physical harm to families from different races, political ideologies, poverty, and the youth based on color by drug laws from a social harm that destroys the nature of the society.

Based on the above arguments from different literatures, I think that the drug war is not only problematic concerning its secondary outcomes of diminished civil freedoms caused by war. I also feel that in the name of prosecuting drug war, the courts have neglected or rejected constitutional protections against state intrusion and personal freedom. I base my argument on the historical perspective of the drug war, how it formed out of primary political views. Another study suggests that the mandatory minimum sentencing in the fight against drugs is just an insight into the institutional of racism perpetuated by the criminal justice system. For instance, in America, the system began with the criminal legal system adjusting over time in reaction to the civil…

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