Are Minimum Sentences Effective at Reducing Crime?

by trisha on November 22, 2013

One issue which every person in the criminal justice field will encounter is whether minimum sentences are truly effective at reducing crime. This has become quite controversial recently and has consequently unleashed a new debate across the nation as to the true effectiveness of these sentencing guidelines.  The issue has lead to a new examination by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder of this minimum sentencing policy used by judges.

The Attorney General recently decided to have the U.S. Justice Department take a closer examination into whether minimum mandatory sentences for crimes were reducing crimes or simply filling the nation’s jails and prisons with more criminals. The concern that Attorney General Holder was posing was based on whether going after drug dealers, and small drug users was reducing drug use in those respective cities and states or was even cost effective.

According to several recent studies, law enforcement officials as well as human service management workers reported no substantial decrease in drug traffic or in gun violence with the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences.  In fact, one federal study demonstrated that,  “As a point of comparison, if one million dollars is spent to treat heavy users, cocaine consumption would be reduced by a little over 100 kilograms,” instead of only 13 kilograms by simply targeting drug dealers and sentencing them.

States Question Effectiveness

In fact in Michigan with its two-year mandatory add-on sentence for individuals who used a weapon during a felony, law enforcement officials reported that there was a negligible “impact on the level of violent crime in Detroit.”  Further Florida law enforcement officials had the same experience when minimum sentences were used to reduce crime in the state.  The three-year minimum sentence for possessing a firearm did not deter or reduce violent crime in any measurable way. Based upon these and similar law enforcement experiences from around the nation, a U.S. Justice Study concluded that, even though many in society desire mandatory minimums in sentencing it is not a proven device in crime reduction.

Develop Criminal Justice

So where does that leave law enforcement, human services and other law-related institutions?  It means that more effective legal solutions, training, research and additional expertise is crucial.

One of the most effective ways to obtain that expertise is from a proven expert institution with a proven research track. The specific curriculum within criminal justice degree programs supplies current and future criminal justice professionals with the wide range of skills to compete and succeed in industry-relevant fields.  One thing central to this pursuit is the need to understand the reasons as well as the methodology used by professionals in the system to help resolve crime.

This blogger is a freelance writer and social media talent valuing innovation, hard work, and a relentless approach to creating value for clients and stakeholders. She can be reached onTwitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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