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NCJ Number: 220742 Find in a Library
Title: Restore Rationality to Sentencing Policy
Journal: Criminology & Public Policy  Volume:6  Issue:4  Dated:November 2007  Pages:679-688
Author(s): Alfred Blumstein; Alex R. Piquero
Date Published: November 2007
Page Count: 10
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This essay suggests how to restore rationality and knowledge about criminal careers into sentencing policy.
Abstract: The steady growth in incarceration rates since the late 1970s has occurred during periods of both increases and decreases in crime rates. This change from a previous flat incarceration rate has been fueled by a political environment that rewards those who show that they are "tough on crime," which is defined as putting more offenders in jails and prisons for longer periods. Typically, mandatory-minimum sentences, a feature of the "get tough" political climate, are much longer than warranted for the severity of the crime and apply to a much broader class of crimes than those that initially spurred the legislation. One solution to this trend is to repeal all mandatory-minimum sentencing laws. A realistic approach would be to enact a law that requires the termination of all mandatory-minimum laws after some reasonable period, perhaps 3-5 years. This would be done after a review of the original law that assesses both its positive and negative features. "Three-strikes" laws should be included in such reviews. A second solution is to establish rational sentencing guidelines through a sentencing commission charged with developing a coherent and proportionate sentencing structure that takes into account offense seriousness and the offender's prior record. When considering an offender's prior record, attention should be given to factors related to habitual offending, general trends in criminal-career trajectories, and an offender's age. These considerations bear upon the effectiveness of the duration of incapacitation through incarceration, i.e., imprisonment is likely to be most effective when a habitual offender is approaching the peak of his/her criminal career, rather than at the beginning or near the end. 28 references
Main Term(s): Court procedures
Index Term(s): Criminal career patterns; Incarceration; Mandatory Sentencing; Sentencing commissions; Sentencing factors; Sentencing guidelines; Sentencing reform; Sentencing trends; Sentencing/Sanctions
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