The mostly unintended effects of mandatory penalties: Two centuries of consistent findings

Michael Tonry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations

Abstract

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 If policy makers took account of research evidence (and informed practitioners' views), existing laws would be repealed and no new ones would be enacted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-114
Number of pages50
JournalCrime and Justice
Volume38
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

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