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Sentencing Digest: Examining Current Sentencing Issues and Policies

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1998
38 pages
This study identifies and discusses the broad sentencing themes that are most germane to State policy makers and practitioners.
The data and research contained in this report came from the published body of research on sentencing, less accessible reports that contain research conducted by sentencing commissions or other agencies primarily for internal use, and original research and data analysis. The original research involved structured telephone interviews with sentencing commission directors; mail surveys and data from sentencing commissions; and an examination of annual reports, training manuals, and other documents prepared by State sentencing commission staff. A section on judicial discretion reviews how it has changed over the past three decades, describes the practical application of voluntary and mandatory guidelines systems, and compares compliance and departure rates across selected guidelines systems. A review of truth-in-sentencing examines the current definitions of truth-in- sentencing used by the States and the Federal Government, discusses how States have implemented truth-in-sentencing, and explores key issues related to sentencing guidelines and parole restructuring. A discussion of sentencing disparity considers its definition, prevalence, and cause, and examines measurement issues and the relationship between guidelines implementation and disparity reduction. A section on intermediate sanctions considers such sanctions as an alternative to traditional probation and incarceration, examines how States have integrated intermediate sanctions into structured sentencing schemes, and addresses how effective intermediate sanctions have been in achieving their goals. Another section of the report uses refined measures to enhance comparisons of sentence recommendations, prison population and admission rates, and new sentencing and parole policies in selected States with sentencing guidelines. Notes and suggestions for additional reading accompany each of the topics reviewed.

Date Published: January 1, 1998