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Mostly Unintended Effects of Mandatory Penalties: Two Centuries of Consistent Findings (From Crime and Justice: A Review of Research, Volume 38, P 65-114, 2009, Michael Tonry, ed., - See NCJ-242171)

NCJ Number
Michael Tonry
Date Published
50 pages
This essay summarizes research on the implementation, operation, and deterrent effects of mandatory sentencing laws.
Policy and knowledge concerning mandatory minimum sentences have long marched in different directions in the United States. There is no credible evidence that the enactment or implementation of such sentences has significant deterrent effects, but there is massive evidence, which has accumulated for two centuries, that mandatory minimums foster circumvention by judges, juries, and prosecutors; reduce accountability and transparency; produce injustices in many cases; and result in wide unwarranted disparities in the handling of similar cases. No country besides the United States has adopted many mandatory penalty laws, and none has adopted laws as severe as those in the United States. If policymakers took account of research evidence and informed practitioners' views, existing laws would be repealed and no new ones would be enacted. (Published Abstract)