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Sentencing and Corrections in the 21st Century: Setting the Stage for the Future

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2001
198 pages
This document provides an overview of sentencing and corrections trends for the past 30 years.
A dramatic increase in offender populations accompanied changes in sentencing and correctional philosophy; this increase was unprecedented and followed a period of relative stability. The number of individuals on probation and parole also grew substantially. The expansion of the prison population affected State and Federal prisons. Women made up a small percentage of the total correctional population. However, the rate of incarceration for women has grown faster than the rate for men. Minority males had both the greatest overall rate of incarceration and the greatest increases in rates over time. Direct expenditures for correctional activities by State governments grew from $4.26 billion in 1980 to $21.27 billion in 1994. Thirty years ago, the Federal Government, all States, and the District of Columbia had indeterminate sentencing systems that emphasized the rehabilitation of juvenile delinquents and adult offenders. Interest in incapacitation grew during the mid-1970s, in part due to concerns about the efficacy of rehabilitation, rising crime rates and public fear of crime. Also influencing sentencing was the “war on drugs,” intermediate sanctions, and truth-in-sentencing. Changes in the philosophy of sentencing and corrections have had a dramatic impact on the criminal justice system. There is no standard approach to sentencing and corrections today. Structured sentencing, mandatory sentencing, three-strikes laws, parole release, decision making, prison crowding, and behavioral, cultural, and social changes have all had an effect on the correctional system. A new penology is emerging as a direct consequence of the changes in the philosophy and practice of corrections; the objective is to identify and manage unruly people, not punish or rehabilitate them. Emerging paradigms are restorative and community justice programs, re-emerging interest in treatment, specialized courts, the reintegration and reentry of prisoners into the community, new technology, and evidence-based corrections. 6 Appendices, 81 notes, tables, and references

Date Published: July 1, 2001