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Principles for Choosing Sanctions: Sweden's Proposed Sentencing Statute

NCJ Number
New England Journal on Criminal and Civil Confinement Volume: 13 Issue: 2 Dated: (Summer 1987) Pages: 171-195
A vonHirsch
Date Published
25 pages
This article explains the features of statutory sentencing principles proposed by the Swedish Committee on Imprisonment.
The existing Swedish Penal Code provides little guidance to sentencing judges. The proposed statute would specify principles to be followed by judges in sentencing. The proposal rests on the principle that punishments should be commensurate with the seriousness of the criminal conduct. The structure of the proposed law creates three graded levels of sentence. The lowest level is the fine, followed by probation, and then imprisonment. The central concept of the proposed law is the 'penal value' of the crime, which is determined by its seriousness. To determine a crime's seriousness, attention is given to the harmfulness of the conduct and the personal culpability of the actor. The proposed law includes criteria for imprisonment, which are crimes with high penal value and prior criminal record with respect to offenses in the upper-middle range of seriousness. Deterrent, incapacitative, and rehabilitative aims have their roles under the proposed law, but these roles are more carefully defined and limited than under existing law. The draft proposal lists aggravating and mitigating circumstances. The article concludes with a discussion of whether or not the proposed Swedish standards could apply to a U.S. jurisdiction. The proposed statute is appended. 94 footnotes.


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