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National Evaluation of the Violent Offender Incarceration/Truth-in-Sentencing Incentive Grant Program

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2001
233 pages
This study evaluated the impacts of various sentencing strategies on patterns of incarceration, crime rates, and State finances, as well as how States interpreted and responded to the 1994 Federal crime law, as amended.
The law provided for Federal incentive grants to States for violent offender incarceration and truth-in-sentencing (TIS) to increase the capacity of State correctional systems to confine serious and violent offenders. The research examined legislative actions, sentencing patterns, correctional populations, criminal justice system costs, crime rates, and the perceptions of criminal justice system personnel. Results revealed that grant awards for fiscal years 1996-99 totaled over $1.8 billion of the $10 billion authorized through fiscal year 2000. The program did appear to have motivated some States to pass TIS laws, but most of these States would probably have passed such legislation anyway. States used the funds to build prison beds, but the increase in beds was small. It was too early to determine the extent to which offenders sentenced under the TIS laws were serving longer terms. Judges and prosecutors agreed that get-tough legislation had affected their work in terms of caseloads, processing time, plea bargains, and waivers to adult court. They agreed that the laws produced longer sentences and time served and benefited victims. However, judges felt that the legislation had reduced their discretion in sentencing, whereas prosecutors felt that it had enhanced their discretion. Correctional administrators noted increases in both positive prison programs and in negative behaviors, as well as crowding. The analysis concluded that the overall trends suggested some promising patterns, but more definitive results would require research several years from now. Finally, the legislation represented a single approach to the complicated issue of sentencing and had not been tested in a time of a slowing economy and rising crime rates. Figures, tables, footnotes, appended instruments and background information, and 50 references

Date Published: September 1, 2001