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Truth in Sentencing and State Sentencing Practices

NCJ Number
National Institute of Justice Journal Issue: 252 Dated: July 2005 Pages: 18-21
Date Published
July 2005
4 pages
Publication Series
This NIJ-funded study examined the effects of Federal truth-in-sentencing (TIS) legislation on State TIS reforms and of selected State TIS policies on prison populations.
Truth in sentencing refers to practices designed to reduce the apparent disparity between court-imposed sentences and the time offenders actually serve in prison. Federal legislation passed in 1994 as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act and amended in 1996 aimed to promote TIS reform by providing States with grants to expand their prison capacity if they imposed TIS requirements on violent offenders. The study reported in this article focused on whether States incorporated TIS into their laws; and, if so, to what extent the Federal TIS incentive Grant Program influenced reforms. Although many States had enacted TIS laws, the study concluded there was limited Federal influence on State TIS policies. State TIS reforms typically predated the Federal legislation or were incremental adjustments to existing practices. Another issue addressed in the study was whether State TIS practices helped produce changes in prison populations. The study found that State TIS practices generally increased the expected length of incarceration time, but these increases were rarely the main contributor to prison population increases. Changes in crime rates, arrest, and prison admissions tended to be more influential than TIS in lengthening actual prison terms. 2 notes

Date Published: July 1, 2005