District voters will find the following material on their ballots:
Initiative Measure Number 9 entitled "District of Columbia Mandatory-Minimum Sentences Initiative of 1981." Summary statement: Provides that persons convicted of committing crimes of violence while armed with a firearm shall be sentenced to mandatory-minimum terms of five years for first offenses and 10 years for second offenses. Provides that persons convicted of manufacturing, distributing or possessing with intent to manufacture or distribute certain controlled drugs shall be sentenced to mandatory-minimum terms of from one year to four years, depending on the classification of drug involved. Provides that any person sentenced under these provisions shall not be paroled or have his sentence suspended until he has been imprisoned for the full mandatory-minimum term.
Supporters: Supporters of Initiative 9 argue that fixed sentences will put serious offenders in prison and take them off the streets. At the same time, supporters assert, the mandatory-minimum sentences will deter others from committing crimes because these potential offenders will know that conviction carries the punishment of mandatory time in jail.
The supporters contend that mandatory-minimum sentencing also would lower crimes committed by those on probation and parole, because mandatory-minimum sentencing would eliminate the "revolving door" of allowing convicted criminals early release through probation or parole.
Supporters also maintain that judges are inconsistent in sentencing criminals and that mandatory-minimum sentencing would end that inconsistency. While conceding that mandatory-minimum sentencing would increase the prison population, supporters say that something has to be done about violent crime and that Initiative 9 is that "something."
Opponents: Opponents of Initiative 9 first argue that the District already has repeat-offender statutes in effect, and they add that the District already imprisons a higher percentage of convicted persons than any other jurisdiction in the nation.
The opponents contend that mandatory-minimum prison sentences are not an effective deterrent to crime because the actual ratio of persons caught and convicted compared to the number of crimes committed is very low. Increasing the certainty of being caught and convicted would do more to deter crime than mandatory prison sentences would, opponents assert.
In addition, opponents say mandatory-minimum prison sentences remove the opportunity for a sentencing judge to take into account a criminal's individual situation.
The opponents also argue that mandatory-minimum sentences put an undue burden on the judicial system because many criminals willing to plead guilty will not do so in the face of mandatory sentences. As a result, opponents say those facing criminal charges will choose trials instead, increasing the number of trials as well as jurors, prosecutors, public defenders and other court personnel. These increases result in increased costs to the system, the opponents say.