U.S. flag

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

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Modern Sentencing Reform: A Preliminary Analysis of the Proposed Federal Sentencing Guidelines

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 25 Issue: 1 Dated: (Summer 1987) Pages: 1-57
C J Lowe
Date Published
57 pages
This article examines the chief features of the U.S. Sentencing Commission's April 13, 1987, draft regulations in view of the current debate about sentencing practice and policy; provides an overview of the Federal sentencing environment; and evaluates the results and impact of the Commission's work.
The U.S. Sentencing Commission, created by the Sentencing Reform Act (part of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984), has seven members, three of whom must be Federal judges. The Commission is charged with developing and implementing mandatory sentencing guidelines for all Federal courts. The guidelines function as administrative controls over judicial discretion, a largely untested concept. Two problems result from the administrative approach to sentencing guidelines. First, there is a tension between theory and implementation. As a result, whenever reform measures are introduced into a functioning system, the system tries to return to the status quo. Second, since rehabilitation is no longer the ideal of sentencing, there is no consensus on the theory and purpose of sentencing. The Commission's April 13, 1987, draft regulations reflect its dilemma in not being able to draw on a settled sentencing theory as a foundation for rulemaking. The new guidelines are an important first step in reform of the legal culture because they recognize humanitarian limits to sentencing. 287 footnotes and 1 sentencing table.