Pub. date: 2002 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412950664 | Print ISBN: 9780761922582 | Online ISBN: 9781412950664| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Strictly speaking, mandatory sentencing refers to the practice of a legislature setting a fixed penalty for the commission of a criminal offense. Usually, however, the expression is used to refer to a particular form of mandatory sentencing involving the imposition of a significant minimum penalty for an offense. This penalty is typically a period of incarceration, often with escalating penalties for subsequent offenses. “Three strikes and you're out” statutes are the best-known example of this form. These and other forms of mandatory sentencing are overwhelmingly directed at “street crime”—offenses involving violence, as well as some drug and property related offenses. Mandatory sentencing removes a judge's discretion to select a sentence in light of an offender's background and the circumstances in which a crime was committed. Instead, for certain legislated offenses, a judge is bound to impose a prescribed penalty on every offender convicted. This practice has a long history, dating ...