U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Criminal Sentencing in Transition

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 68 Issue: 4-5 Dated: (October-November 1984) Pages: complete issue
Date Published
78 pages
The sentencing of convicted offenders, the hub of the criminal justice system, is being transformed. Trends over the last decade have seen legislative, judicial, and paroling initiatives in a number of jurisdictions that have increased markedly the determinacy with which sentences are set. The discretion available to the judge or paroling authority has been decreased.
The first article in this symposium issue examines the impacts and implications of sentencing reforms. It argues that sentencing reform cannot focus on philosophical concerns alone, but must give explicit consideration to prison capacity and the impact of new policies on prison populations. An analysis of North Carolina's determinate sentencing legislation, the Fair Sentencing Act, finds that it has made sentencing more predictable and has decreased racial disparity without affecting court efficiency or increasing the prison population. Selective incapacitation, the subject of the next paper, is portrayed as a possible way to confront the twin demons of high crime rates and prison overcrowding. An evaluation of voluntary judicial sentencing guidelines in Maryland and Florida indicates that they offer little assurance of uniform sentencing. However, a judge of the circuit court for Baltimore City argues that both public and judicial reaction to Maryland's sentencing guidelines has been positive. An examination of sentencing reform in Minnesota finds that the sentencing commission guidelines adopted in 1980 have improved coordination between sentencing and correctional policies, but have been less successful in achieving sentence uniformity. A final article declares that greater awareness of the views and goals of the public, which is less punitive than generally assumed, could enable correctional system policymakers to achieve desired reforms. Footnotes, figures, and tables are included.

Date Published: January 1, 1984