Here’s what we know about sentencing and deterrence:
- People are deterred by consistent enforcement and arrest of criminal laws, less so by consistent conviction, and even less so by the length of a potential sentence.
- Most people – except people with significant sociopathic disorders – age out of crime, particularly violent crime so that by their 40s, the incidence of violent criminal acts declines significantly.
- Most first time offenders do not re-offend; crime in general is committed by repeat offenders who, again, age out usually in their 40s of significant criminal acts.
- People contemplating a criminal act often take very little account of the potential lengthy criminal sentence (see 1) because they are usually young and young people don’t adequately conceive of what they might be doing or how they might be living in their 40s or 50s.
- See, for instance, how young people under-save for retirement.
It follows from what we know about criminal justice that mandatory minimum laws are the worst of all possible sentencing regimes, wherein control is often put in the hands of prosecutors and taken out of the hands of judges (who generally can not go below the mandatory minimum).
(Mandatory Minimum laws often have the intended consequence of coercing pleas from defendants whose plea bargains might exclude certain mandatory minimum convictions in exchange for an admission of guilt – and a denial of trial rights.)
Attorney General Sessions knows none of this – or cares not a wit – as he prances about the country and sends out sentencing memoranda to federal prosecutors everywhere demanding that, essentially, every charge be stacked against the defendant that can be reasonably defendant.
This is a recipe for fewer trials, harsher punishments, ruined lives, broken families, and little to no actual improvement in public safety.