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Archive for the ‘Mandatory Minimum Sentence’ Category

Shift in Illinois Sentencing Structure

March 18th, 2015 at 7:00 pm

Illinois criminal defense attorney, Illinois defense lawyer, criminal penaltiesThis firm has reported on criminal justice and sentencing matters multiple times in the past. From mandatory minimums to sentencing tools, it seems the sentencing structure in Illinois is in the process of an overhaul. Media reports provide further evidence of this in its description of the apparent cultural change going on in regards to criminal sentencing in the Illinois General Assembly.

A New Approach

In the past, Illinois lawmakers’ approach to dealing with crime involved imposing harsher penalties for their commission. The thought was that the enhanced penalty would effectively address the problem; however, lawmakers are starting to see that that is not necessarily the case. Despite the idea that harsher penalties for certain crimes often seemed like a good idea, lawmakers are starting to reject that notion, as evidenced by the significant decline in the number of sentencing enhancement bills that they have attempted to pass in recent years.

This may be due in part to the General Assembly’s recent reaction to such proposals. The House committee on criminal law has started to critically examine not only the effectiveness but also the advisability of enhancing prison sentences. This more scrutinized approach has resulted in such bills being more difficult to be passed. Many are surprised at this turn of events as compared to the attitude expressed in years past.

Driving Change

The approach of the House committee is likely indicative of a similar attitude on sentencing enhancements that is prevalent across the nation. The amount of information regarding criminal sentencing and its effects is vast. National concern about the overuse of incarceration has been constant, and has correlated to an increased realization that many prisoners who are incarcerated in this country are in prison as the result of addiction or mental health issues, who are often and most likely not getting the proper treatment while incarcerated. These factors, in addition to state prison budgets that seem generous but are actually spread too thin, are most likely to be the source for the change in approach to criminal sentencing across the country.

Perhaps surprisingly, the new attitude on criminal sentencing seems to have bipartisan support. Conservative and liberal groups alike are speaking out in favor of a new approach, with representatives expressing the opinion that prison is more appropriate for those criminals who need to be incapacitated in order to be punished, or in order to be treated.

Criminal Defense Attorney

Many are saying it is only a matter of time before such a sentencing approach makes its way into Illinois law. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime and need expert legal defense, contact the experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today for a consultation. We serve clients in Cook County and the surrounding area.

2014 Marks Decrease in Federal Prison Population

October 16th, 2014 at 10:50 am

 Illinois defense lawyer, prison population, federal prisons, White collar crime is often not considered as serious as other types of criminal conduct, but it is often punished just as harshly. Depending on the type of crime and the severity of the offense, the defendant could be looking at a substantial amount in prison. In many cases, white collar crimes may be prosecuted at the federal level in federal court. Such cases involve slightly different laws and procedure, plus the imposition of a federal prison term.

There has been discussion in Illinois and across the country recently about sentencing reform, decriminalization of certain criminal acts, and shorter prison terms. All of this is likely in an effort to achieve both fair and practical effects by both reforming the criminal justice system and decreasing prison populations. According to recent report, there has been an important shift in the federal prison population toward those ends.

First Drop in Decades

The federal prison population has decreased by about 4,800 inmates in the last year. The Justice Department reports that this marks the first time the number has gone down in several decades. In addition, the Justice Department reportedly projects that the prison population will be about 215,000 inmates at the end of the current budget year, which would reflect a total decrease of about 5,000 from the same count taken just one year ago. If that happens, it would mark the first time since 1980 that the federal prison population has actually declined over the course of a year.

Going forward, it seems as though the trend will continue. The Bureau of Prisons released internal figures that show an expected decrease of over 2,000 prisoners to happen in the next year, and almost another 10,000-inmate decrease the year after that.

What is Causing the Shift?

In commenting on what factors have contributed to the decline in federal inmates, Attorney General Eric Holder said that a decrease in crime rates has had an effect on prison populations.

Holder has been working to reduce prison populations across the country over the course of the past year. His efforts included taking actions such as discouraging prosecutors from charging nonviolent offenders with crimes that would carry mandatory minimum sentences, to encouraging certain prisoners to apply for clemency, to supporting reduced sentencing guidelines. He is also encouraging the government to measure the success of its criminal justice policies by how many people are prosecuted and sentenced to prison. He is purportedly of the opinion that the idea of using enforcement as the measure of success is outdated and that a holistic approach is preferable and more useful.

Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime in the Chicago area, you need an experienced Rolling Meadows defense attorney to advocate for your rights. Contact the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case. We have successful experience representing clients in Cook County and surrounding areas.

Indirect Effects of Mandatory Minimum Sentences

April 17th, 2014 at 12:37 pm

mandatory minimum sentenceDefendants who are convicted of certain types of crimes – including murder, sex offenses, and drug crimes – face sentences that often include mandatory minimum incarceration time. These are minimum periods of incarceration that leave very little room for judicial discretion or leniency in their imposition, and can amount to decades spent in jail for the defendants.

The intended purposes that are achieved by such mandatory minimum sentences include deterrence, protecting the public, and punishment of the perpetrator. However, such lengthy mandatory sentences also have indirect effects that ripple outward from the defendant. As a recent article discussed, mandatory minimum sentences involve collateral damage to children of defendants who are forced to parent from prison.

A Wave of Incarcerated Parents

Just before the year 2000, there were almost 1.5 million minor children who had a parent that was incarcerated. That number represented an approximate 50 percent increase from the same statistic in 1991. The significant increase is arguable directly correlated to the emergence and imposition of mandatory minimum sentences, which caused an influx of incarcerated individuals as judges’ discretion was severely limited in handing out prison terms.

Mandatory minimums were a response to the rising crime rates and drug problems of the 1980s. The new sentencing structure applied to a wider array of crimes and increased penalties associated with them. This not only caused prison populations to dramatically rise over the next number of years, but also made costs significantly rise as well. The effects on children and families of those incarcerated were occurring simultaneously.

The Effect on Children and Families

Families are more vulnerable as the result of the policy shift towards mandatory minimums. Further, the opportunities and life chances that children of incarcerated parents may otherwise have are greatly reduced. This is not surprising, considering the fact that in cases such as these, the parent-child relationship is almost exclusively limited to phone interaction, if at all. While many credit the current low crime rates as a direct benefit of mandatory minimums, there is a detectable, however slight, shift in thinking when it comes to the harsh penalties.

Society seems to be viewing the policy and considering who should really be behind bars. One problem with mandatory minimum sentences is the ability to abuse them, especially in drug cases. Prosecutors often bolster the facts and weight of the illegal substances, which is directly tied to the length of a mandatory minimum sentence, in order to gain additional information, implicate others, and produce confessions. This could lead to extreme penalties for low-level associates with minor involvement in the drug trade, while other offenders, including rapists, kidnappers, and even murderers, serve just a fraction of the sentence.

Alternatives to Prison

The change in societal thinking toward mandatory minimum sentences is reflected in the formation of non-profit groups and organizations that focus on promoting alternatives to prison and organizing families of prisoners in order to advocate change. Such ideas are gaining popularity among politicians from both sides. The discussion is directed more toward being smart on crime as opposed to being unnecessarily tough on crime. The ideas are most relevant to non-violent offenders who do not have a long criminal history. Bills are being passed to lower mandatory minimums, even making the change retroactive.

Criminal Defense Attorney

Although the public seems to be increasingly in favor of once again giving judges discretion in imposing sentences, others argue that mandatory minimums are still appropriate in cases involving hardened criminals and the most serious crimes. If you are charged with a crime in the Chicago area, it is best to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Contact the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today and schedule a consultation. We will work diligently to protect your rights.

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