The Challenge of Imposing Just Sentences Under Mandatory Minimum Statutes: A Qualitative Study of Judicial Perceptions

Mandatory minimums limit judicial discretion in many jurisdictions in the United States, often compelling judges to impose harsh incarcerative terms. Using qualitative interviews with 41 criminal term judges presiding in a state in the United States, we explore how mandatory minimums influence the judicial sentencing function. We find that judges vary in their approaches to sentencing and that their approaches correspond with their perceptions of mandatory minimum statutes. While our respondents consider case-level, systemic, and pragmatic factors, the majority of judges are focused on the case level and perceive that mandatory minimums often strip away the flexibility they need to craft appropriate sentences in individual cases, leading to punishments that are unduly harsh, and sometimes preventing the imposition of promising alternatives to incarceration. Some judges experience moral dilemmas and guilt feelings during this process. In contrast, judges who highlight pragmatic factors (e.g., public perceptions) are more receptive to statutory restrictions.

Esther Nir et al, The Challenge of Imposing Just Sentences Under Mandatory Minimum Statutes: A Qualitative Study of Judicial Perceptions, Criminal Justice Policy Review (33, 2) pp. . Copyright © 2022. DOI: 10.1177/08874034211030555. Users who receive access to an article through a repository are reminded that the article is protected by copyright and reuse is restricted to non-commercial and no derivative uses. Users may also download and save a local copy of an article accessed in an institutional repository for the user's personal reference. For permission to reuse an article, please follow our Process for Requesting Permission.

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Work Title The Challenge of Imposing Just Sentences Under Mandatory Minimum Statutes: A Qualitative Study of Judicial Perceptions
Subtitle A Qualitative Study of Judicial Perceptions
Access
Open Access
Creators
  1. Esther Nir
  2. Siyu Liu
Keyword
  1. Courts
  2. In-depth interviews
  3. Judicial discretion
  4. Mandatory minimums
  5. Sentencing
License In Copyright (Rights Reserved)
Work Type Article
Publisher
  1. Criminal Justice Policy Review
Publication Date July 8, 2021
Publisher Identifier (DOI)
  1. https://doi.org/10.1177/08874034211030555
Deposited February 27, 2023

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  • Created
  • Added Nir_and_Liu_2021_MM_openaccess.pdf
  • Added Creator Esther Nir
  • Added Creator Siyu Liu
  • Published
  • Updated Keyword, Publication Date Show Changes
    Keyword
    • Courts, In-depth interviews , Judicial discretion, Mandatory minimums, Sentencing
    Publication Date
    • 2021-01-01
    • 2021-07-08