Studies in the US have shown that mandatory minimum sentences don’t work. A 1997 study by the Rand Corporation’s Drug Policy Research Centre demonstrated that mandatory minimum sentences were ‘throwing away taxpayers’ money’. Prison was not only an ineffective sanction against the drug trade, it was by far the most expensive. The think tank study showed that, if $1 million MORE in public funds were spent on each drug strategy over 15 years,
- mandatory minimums would reduce national cocaine consumption by 13 kilograms
- conventional law enforcement would cut it by 27 kilograms, and
- treatment of heavy drug users would slash it by more than 100 kilograms
Conventional law enforcement (such as arrests, confiscations, prosecutions and standard prison terms) would eliminate 70% more crimes than mandatory minimums (which impose much higher average sentences).
However, treatment of heavy users would reduce about 10 times more serious crime against people and property than conventional law enforcement and 15 times more than mandatory minimums, even though an average of only 13% of those receiving treatment kick their drug habits. ‘Mandatory sentences are counterproductive … they are more harmful to the community than helpful’, the study group said.
Jonathan P. Caulkins, C. Peter Rydell, William Schwabe & James R. Chisea (1997) Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences: throwing away the key or the taxpayers money?, Rand Documents, https://www.rand.org/
Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences: https://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR827.html