Massachusetts has become the most recent of twenty states that currently use 'three strikes' legislation (The Guardian, 'Massachusetts opts in to America's disastrous 'three strikes' experiment', 10th August 2012). Although widely known to increase prison populations and state expenditure without reducing crime rates, 'three strikes' laws have proven to be powerful political tools in appearing 'tough on crime'. The Massachusetts legislation widens the amount of offences that are punishable by life without parole, as well as securing mandatory sentences upon conviction of a third violent offence. Even though limited to violent crime, the Bill looks set to further increase spending on incarceration, and Harvard Law school estimates that the new measures will cost the state an extra $125 million a year.
Irish legislation contains elements of mandatory sentencing. For example, a life sentence is mandatory for those found guilty of murder; upon conviction of a drugs offence where the street value is more than €13,000, a 10 year custodial sentence must be imposed. In May 2009, IPRT outlined its Position Paper on Mandatory Sentencing, and more recently (January 2012), the Law Reform Commission published its Consultation Paper on Mandatory Sentencing.