But 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 Mr. Ward was in 2012 – 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 in South Orange, N.J., 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.”
The issue has great urgency in Chicago because homicides here surpassed 500 last year. Police say Hadiya’s death was part of a three-year battle between two gang factions. Ward and Kenneth Williams, who police say are members of a Gangster Disciples splinter group, mistook the group that Hadiya was with as a rival gang. Both men were charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and remain in custody.