Mandatory Sentencing - Research Paper Example

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This article will explore the subject of mandatory sentencing under the following divisions: what is mandatory sentencing; the history and uses of mandatory sentencing; the case for mandatory sentencing; the case against mandatory sentencing; alternatives to mandatory sentencing and their effect…
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Download file to see previous pages The paper tells that crime does not pay. We can seldom argue with this premise, and the need to inculcate this idea among the local populace of our cities and towns. However there is also a fear that in our zest to single out and punish those who are guilty of crimes against society and humanity, we are creating situations where too many people are behind bars. Indeed the rate of incarcerations in the USA is one of the highest in the world, which is shameful for a country that considers itself the world’s foremost superpower and protector of human rights. Mandatory sentencing has been cited as one of the reasons behind the overpopulation in our prisons, creating situations where crime is further exacerbated by the formation of gangs, hardcore and small time criminals being grouped together, and the fact that some criminals are in need of medical attention rather than a life of incarceration that does not remedy their particular situation or suit their particular needs. Mandatory sentencing is a form of judicial punishment in which the terms and duration of the punishment have already been set in Law depending on the crimes committed and the charges filed and proven against the accused law breaker. This being the case, there is usually no or little room for a judge to intervene and set his own ruling depending on the individual circumstances of the case. Originally the need for mandatory sentencing was seen in cases of drug dealing and related offences. But later the effect of mandatory sentencing minimums was extended to gun related crimes as well, as they initially proved an effective deterrent to crime. However as we shall see much of the initial laws have been repealed and the sentencing reduced on humanitarian grounds. Even today, the debate rages on as to whether mandatory minimums still have a place and effect in law or not. There is much to support both points of view, as we shall see. The History and Uses of Mandatory Sentencing In the USA it was the 1951 Boggs Act that started the Federal mandatory minimum penalties for drug trafficking. The length of some of these sentences was then increased in 1956. However the comprehensive reforms of the 1970 Drug Abuse and Control Act repealed the earlier Boggs Acts. This was followed by the enactment of the Rockefeller Drug Laws in 1973 which helped establish minimum 15 year and life sentences for various kinds of drug offences. Obviously the intent would have been to get the offenders off the streets for a considerable amount of time and in doing so make it safer for the targeted population. Laws such as Michigan’s 650 Lifer Law took a much harder stance on drug offences and established a minimum of life imprisonment without possibility of parole for possession and dealing with 650 grams of drugs such as cocaine and heroin- it also increased the penalties for smaller offences. In 1984, the Comprehensive Crime Control Act resulted in the creation of a U.S Sentencing Commission. It also phased out parole and set mandatory sentences for gun related crimes. Two years later, in 1986 the Anti-Drug Abuse Act creates new federal minimum mandatory sentences for drug related offences. One year later, in 1987 the US Sentencing Commission enacted some guidelines to help the Courts in convicting and sentencing all federal drug related offences. In 1988, the Omnibus Drug Abuse Act not only added a mandatory minimum penalty for the possession of crack but also included conspiracy convictions in the mandatory penalty scheme. This has had little positive effects on the system since ruthless drug dealers do not care who they choose to carry out their dirty schemes to transport drugs across borders and it could often be an unwary traveler that has been trapped for no fault of his own except ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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