To the Editor:
I applaud your editorial on Oct. 18, “Shoot down mandatory sentences.”
Mandatory sentencing laws are a knee-jerk reaction by the Legislature to a specific set of facts or circumstances without thought to the end result. Most people do not understand that they place tremendous pressure on the criminal justice system by requiring the prosecutor, the courts and the defense to follow mandatory sentencing guidelines. This in turn places a tremendous burden on the taxpayer supporting those incarcerated. It is estimated that housing an inmate in the Illinois Department of Corrections is in the neighborhood of $30,000 a year. This is in a state that is almost broke.
In recent weeks, we have seen a sex offender sentenced to 45 years in jail for sexual misconduct with children age 12, while a person convicted of murder in a violent and heinous matter was sentenced to 35 years. While a person guilty of a child sex offense certainly should be punished, the disparity between the two prison sentences does not make any sense.
The bottom line is that in criminal law, the punishment should fit the crime. Since the state can’t afford to build more prisons or properly fund the ones that exist now, the Legislature should be extremely careful in considering any further mandatory sentencing laws.
Henry Sugden III