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NCJ Number: 163806 Find in a Library
Title: Role of Criminal Record in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines
Journal: Criminal Justice Ethics  Volume:13  Issue:1  Dated:(Winter/Spring 1994)  Pages:21-30
Author(s): J V Roberts
Date Published: 1994
Page Count: 10
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The offender's criminal history exercises an important influence on sentence severity in Federal sentencing guidelines, and deficiencies in criminal history provisions of the guidelines are noted.
Abstract: If defendants are punished repeatedly for the same offense, it is essential that cumulative sentencing follow a principled path. Repeated increments in sentence severity, as a function of previous convictions, cannot be justified based on the just deserts sentencing rationale. The way in which criminal histories are used in Federal sentencing guidelines is not likely to have much impact on crime prevention through incapacitation or deterrence. In actual administration of the guidelines, criminal histories do not follow just deserts principles but rather dramatically increase sentence severity based primarily on the number of prior custodial terms. By setting a relatively low threshold for inclusion and imposing mandatory criminal history scores, special offender provisions of the guidelines treat offenders who vary in terms of recidivism risk in the same way, and the result is overprediction of future offending. Criminal history provisions of Federal sentencing guidelines reach too far back into the defendant's past, provide too many justifications for departures that exceed the statute of limitation, fail to distinguish between prior criminal conduct of variable seriousness, do not distinguish between defendants of variable recidivism risk, define career criminals too broadly, do not acknowledge the importance of a conviction-free period in the defendant's past, and fail to consider the relationship between prior convictions and current offense. 35 notes
Main Term(s): Courts
Index Term(s): Corrections; Criminal histories; Criminology; Deterrence; Habitual offenders; Just deserts theory; Recidivism; Sentence effectiveness; Sentencing disparity; Sentencing guidelines
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