Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Pennsylvania Secretary of Corrections John E. Wetzel and DOC Director of Planning, Research and Statistics Dr. Bret Bucklen make the case against legislation restoring the mandatory minimum sentencing requirement. They argue the data do not support minimum sentences reducing or deterring crime. In fact, locking up those who commit non-violent crimes not only costs taxpayers – as much $85 million a year – it doesn’t necessarily lead to better outcomes for the individual when they are released.

Crime rates are lower today than at any time since 1970 and that includes reports released following the 2015 Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that found mandatory minimums unconstitutional.

Mandatory minimums take discretion away from judges and give it to prosecutors. The current sentencing guidelines give latitude to judges to impose harsher sentences on those who deserve them. The DOC is a research-based, data-driven organization. There is no research that suggests the absence of mandatory minimums impact public safety. In fact, research suggests that low-level, non–violent offenders are more likely to go on to commit crimes when they are released which will lead to more victims. The existing structure allows victims to provide input at sentencing and parole.