Sentencing Policy

Control over sentencing policy creates a tension between government and the judiciary.  A government that wants to be seen as being “tough on crime” wants to impose stiff mandatory sentences, which can create two problems:

●  Sentences for some crimes become disproportionate compared to other crimes.

●  Some people are unnecessarily sent to prison, most notably in America.  An article in Time, for example, argued that 39% of Prisoners Should Not Be in Prison.  There are effective alternatives, as described in the next section (5.2.7).

It is hard to avoid drawing the conclusion that politicians’ need for short-term popularity makes them unsuited to controlling sentencing.  Judges can be respected and be accepted without being popular, if they are able to explain their decisions.



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/5263.htm