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Minimum Mandatory Sentencing Does Not Work

Mandatory Minimum SentencingWilliams Barristers and Solicitors takes pride in representing each client individually and deals with each case on its merits so that a just and equitable outcome can be achieved.  The push for minimum mandatory sentencing in many states including South Australia does not achieve this outcome.  It does not work.

In The Conversation on 19 April 2017  authors Kate Fitz-Gibbon and James Roffee, both Senior Lecturers in Criminology at Monash University, state that although obviously intended to improve community safety, mandatory minimum sentencing policies run counter to the significant body of evidence indicating that this approach to sentencing is costly, unlikely to improve public safety nor (is it) effective in deterring future offending.

They contend that uptake of the policies should not be misconstrued as an indication of their effectiveness in practice.  These policies fail to achieve their aims, have unintended consequences in practice, particularly for marginalised and diverse communities.

In an earlier article by Hilde Tubex Future Fellow, Crime Research Centre, University of W A appeared in The Conversation on 5 January 2016.  Hilde also says that minimum mandatory sentencing creates a problematic justice system.  We would expect that any justice system has at it core, fairness and justice.   She highlights mandatory sentencing as a system that leads to disproportional and anomalous outcomes.  ……A system can’t be fair or just if the marginalised and vulnerable are the first to be affected by it. Juveniles, persons with mental illness or cognitive impairment, and Indigenous peoples are often disproportionately impacted by mandatory sentencing.

The Political Appeal of Minimum Mandatory Sentencing

Whilst we know that the policies have negligible effect on achieving the aims of public safety, they have significant populist appeal and are effective in the apparent achievement of political promises.

The trend undermines the long-established principles of proportionality and individualised justice.  It effectively undermines the judiciary who have the expertise in determining appropriate sentencing and leaves it the hands of politicians who lack the qualifications and are responsive to populist concerns.

The Consequences of Minimum Mandatory Sentencing

These policies come with significant cost to the public in several ways.  Significantly these policies increase the number of people in the prison system for longer periods of time at an individual cost of around $100,000 per year.  The authors calculate that in Victoria over a four-year Government term, an estimated 3,000 additional people/year would cost near $309 million.  This amount would obviously be far better in programs that prevented crime in the first place.

Beyond this cost there are the far reaching social and community costs that come with incarceration.  The impact on families can be devastating with loss of income, increased stress, family violence and family breakdown.  The prison system may also increase offending through the contacts made whilst in prison and the far-reaching implications of a fractured life.

All Cases Are Unique

The case for enabling the experts, in this case the judiciary, to make considered decisions based on the facts and circumstances is the cornerstone of a strong judicial system.  There is no one size fits all and implementing a system based on this principle can only lead to unjust outcomes.

The Williams Barristers and Solicitors law firm in Adelaide will treat you as an individual .   Call us on 08 84519040

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