Mandatory Minimum Sentences Well-Meaning but Ineffective

Post Date: October 23, 2013

(Chicago Tribune) — Illinois State Sen. Patricia Van Pelt, D-Chicago, is a member of the Senate Criminal Law Committee. She wrote the following op-ed: 

What goes through the mind of the drive-by shooter as he unloads on a crowd of kids, or through the clouded brain of a drug user flashing a gun during a convenience store holdup?

I’m not sure what they’re thinking — or if they’re thinking. But you can be certain neither one first sat down to make a pro-and-con list or checked the Illinois Compiled Statutes to calculate potential prison time for the offense.

I have to disagree with University of Chicago Crime Lab director Jens Ludwig, who contends that longer mandatory minimum prison sentences for gun crimes, including illegally carrying one for personal protection, would be a cost-effective partial solution to violence in Chicago.

Most research studies of mandatory sentencing laws across the country undercut Ludwig’s speculative conclusion that the public will save money by spending hundreds of millions of tax dollars on longer prison terms for gun criminals, including some carrying unloaded weapons.  Read more