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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 134616 Find in a Library
Title: Failure of Sentencing Guidelines: A Plea for Less Aggregation
Journal: University of Chicago Law Review  Volume:58  Issue:3  Dated:(Summer 1991)  Pages:901-951
Author(s): A W Alschuler
Date Published: 1991
Page Count: 51
Type: Survey
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The Federal Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 epitomizes the movement from individualized to aggregated sentences; this movement has marked a backward step in the search for just criminal punishment. This author holds that the aggregative vices of sentencing guidelines are multiplied by legislatively prescribed sentences, particularly mandatory minimum sentences.
Abstract: This article discusses some functions of aggregation and examines the shift to a harm-based penal philosophy that the move toward aggregated sentences has yielded. The claim that guidelines have reduced disparity in sentencing is based on the erroneous assumptions of harm-based norms. This article describes some of the inequality that has resulted from Federal sentencing guidelines and notes ways in which judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys evade and subvert the guidelines; plea bargaining is one technique for nullifying sentencing guidelines. The relationship between aggregation and the "severity revolution" in criminal sentences is analyzed and related to the overcrowding problem in American prisons. An alternative approach to current guidelines would use a sentencing commission's resolution of specific, recurring sentencing issues as well as paradigmatic cases as benchmarks for sentencing judges.
Main Term(s): Sentencing guidelines; Sentencing reform
Index Term(s): Legislative impact; Penalty severity rating
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