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NCJ Number: 98090 Find in a Library
Title: Requirement of Proportionality in Criminal Sentencing - Solem v Helm
Journal: New England Journal on Criminal and Civil Confinement  Volume:11  Issue:1  Dated:(Winter 1985)  Pages:238-259
Author(s): C J Olsen
Date Published: 1985
Page Count: 22
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article examines the impact of the Supreme Court decision in Solem v. Helm on sentencing, recidivist statutes, and the determinate sentence movement.
Abstract: The concept that punishment must be proportional to the crime dates back to the Magna Carta. In general, the Court has been reluctant to rule that the length of a criminal sentence violates the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. In Rummel v. Estelle, the Court appeared to indicate that the imposition of a term of years, no matter how long the sentence or how minor the offense, was a determination to be made by the State legislature. In Solem v. Helm, the Court invalidated a life sentence for writing a fraudulent $100 check using the Hart standard, a legal standard which it had rejected in Rummel. Under this standard, whether a sentence is cruel and unusual is determined by four criteria: the crime itself, the legislative purpose of the punishment, prior treatment of similar crimes, and available jurisdictional punishments for other offenses. The readoption of this standard will influence sentencing in at least two ways. It will affect the use of recidivist statutes which impose long terms on repeat offenders, even when the offense is relatively minor. It will also impact on the determinate sentencing movement which would impose significantly increased sentences in an attempt to reduce crime.
Index Term(s): Court reform; Cruel and unusual punishment; Determinate Sentencing; Recidivist statutes; Sentencing disparity; Sentencing factors; Sentencing reform; US Supreme Court decisions
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