Could Harsher Sentencing Laws Have Saved Chicago’s Hadiya Pendleton?


Would harsher sentencing rules have saved Chicago’s Hadiya Pendleton, the girl, 15, who participated at President Obama’s inauguration festivities and then was gunned down near the President’s home? The Christian Science Monitor raises that question, quoting Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy on alleged gunman Michael Ward, who was on probation on a weapons charge.

“This incident didn't have to occur,” McCarthy said. “If mandatory minimums existed in the state of Illinois, Michael Ward would not have been in the state to complete this heinous act.” Legal experts say mandatory minimums are not necessarily designed to keep gun offenders off the streets, and that the perils of expanding them – especially to minors, as Ward was when he was sentenced last year – could outweigh the benefits. “We really want to make sure they [minors] finish high school,” says John Paitakes, a criminal justice professor at Seton Hall University and a former probation officer. “One risk of getting someone too far into the system is they are going to get more criminalized. So the best chance of reducing adult crime is to deal with juveniles and divert and prevent them from adult crime.”

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