Many states, including Georgia, have been forced to rethink policies implemented that were meant to crack down on repeat offenders. Measures such as mandatory minimum sentencing, so-called truth in sentencing laws, and the three-strikes laws that were much talked about in past decades, seemed to accomplish little more than to increase costs.
Though prison populations vastly increased under these measures, such prisons were mostly populated by individuals accused of non-violent crimes. Criminal defense attorneys were forced to defend individuals charged with various drug offenses that likely would have benefited more from alternate sentencing than they would through mandatory incarceration.
Sadly, many states criminal penalties lean towards long sentences for drug offenders rather than drug or alcohol treatment. Legislators have been remarkably slow had attempting to eliminate mandatory sentencing to begin with, and this has led to unnecessarily harsh sentences being handed down for acts that may not have injured anyone but the alleged perpetrator.
Many of the actions taken by legislators in implementing items like the three-strike laws were meant to symbolize that such a legislature was taking a tough stance on crime. Such an attempt to appear tough on crime, however, has led to excessively severe penalties for certain inmates. For example, one third time offender was sentenced to 25-years to life for nothing more than being in possession of a stolen cell phone.
Hopefully, legislators will rethink mandatory sentencing guidelines into the future. In the meantime, criminal defense attorneys will continue helping individuals avoid harsh sentences whenever possible. Such attorneys understand that every criminal charge concerns a unique circumstance, and such individuals charged must be able to receive individual representation so that each circumstance can be closely examined by the courts.
Source: The Crime Report, "Rethinking 'Tough on Crime'," by Scott Michels, June 28, 2012