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Structured Sentencing in the U.S.: An Experiment in Modeling Judicial Discretion

NCJ Number
Law and Policy Volume: 20 Issue: 3 Dated: July 1998 Pages: 231-382
Keith Hawkins, Murray Levine
Date Published
152 pages
Following an introduction to models of sentencing reform in the United States and effects on the sanctioning process, four papers assess what has happened to sentencing guidelines in Massachusetts, Florida, Minnesota, and Washington State; the concluding paper examines warranted and unwarranted complexity in the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
The paper on the development of sentencing guidelines in Massachusetts discusses the process used by the Massachusetts Sentencing Commission in formulating the sentencing guidelines legislation; the conceptual model and key substantive considerations associated with the sentencing guidelines are summarized, with attention to intermediate sanctions and mandatory sentencing and their relationship to the sentencing guidelines. Another article considers the history of structured sentencing in Florida, beginning with initial efforts to establish sentencing guidelines in 1977 and culminating in legislative action that abolished the guidelines effective October 1, 1998. A third article examines some of the forces of change in Minnesota that have impacted the implementation of sentencing guidelines in that State as well as how the structure of the guidelines has managed to retain a rational sentencing policy. Another article examines the impact of citizen initiatives on Washington State's system of structured sentencing, followed by the concluding article which argues that the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines are highly complex because of both initial policy decisions and subsequent pressures from the U.S. Congress and appellate courts; this complexity has detrimental effects on both the perceived and actual fairness of the laws. Relevant tables and figures, notes, and references accompany the articles. For individual articles, see NCJ-180119-24. For the second part of this series, see NCJ 180118.