Sentencing

Resource Guide

Because sentencing is a critical component of  the criminal justice process, it is continually changing to improve the justice system’s response to convicted criminals.  Reforms often address broader goals of sentencing, such as the role of judges and the punishment options, but issues likewise include disparity in sentencing, judicial discretion, and the impact of sentencing policies on facilities and personnel resources. This topic includes information on sentencing commissions, sentencing guidelines, and sentencing reform.

Links to related online resources are listed below. Non-digitized publications may be borrowed from the NCSC Library; call numbers are provided.


Featured Links

Leitenberger, David S. Richland County Model Reentry Court. (2005). Future Trends in State Courts.

For the last five years, Richland County, Ohio, has operated one of the first, and largest, model reentry courts, which provides for court oversight of offenders as they proceed through the criminal-justice system.

General

Fred Cheesman. A Decade of NCSC Research on Blended Sentencinge of Juvenile Offenders: What Have We Learned About "Who Gets a Second Chance?". (2011). National Center for State Courts, Future Trends in State Courts 2011.

State court dockets are filled with offenders who have been through the system before and are likely to return.  Incorporating evidence-based practices into the sentencing process offers the promise of reducing recidivism while protecting public safety and controlling corrections costs.

A Statement Regarding Utah`s Indeterminate Sentencing System. (September 2006). This is a position statement from the Utah Sentencing Commission justifying their use of indeterminate sentencing.
Casey, Pamela, Roger Warren, and Jennifer Elek. Using Offender Risk and Needs Assessment at Sentencing. (2011). National Center for State Courts.

This document provides guidance to help judges and others involved in the sentencing decision understand when and how to incorporate risk and needs assessment information into their decision making process.

After Prison: Roadblocks to Reentry. (2004). This report summarizes the findings of an exhaustive two-year study by the Legal Action Center (LAC) of the legal obstacles that people with criminal records face when they attempt to reenter society and become productive, law-abiding citizens. Our research found that people with criminal records seeking reentry face a daunting array of counterproductive debilitating and unreasonable roadblocks in almost every important aspect of life.
Roger K. Warren Arming the Courts with Research: Ten Evidence-Based Sentencing Initiatives to Control Crime and Reduce Costs. (May 2009). The 10 strategies outlined in this brief are adapted from a longer paper by Roger Warren that was originally published in a special 2007 issue of the Indiana Law Journal, entitled “Evidence-Based Practices and State Sentencing Policy: Ten Policy Initiatives to Reduce Recidivism."
Cheesman, Fred et al. Blended Sentencing in Minnesota: On Target for Justice and Public Safety?. (November 2002). 150 pages.

Blended sentencing in Minnesota emerged as a political compromise between those who wanted to emphasize public safety, punishment, and accountability of juvenile offenders, and those who wanted to maintain or strengthen the traditional juvenile justice system.

Branch Responsible for Probation. (2011).

This report identifies which branch of government is responsible for juvenile, adult misdemeanor and adult felony probation.

Andrew Mollow. Community-Based Corrections: Seeking Court Support for a Growing Need. (2003). National Center for State Courts, Future Trends in State Courts 2003.

This article discusses how a long-simmering, but often tacit debate questions whether sentencing discretion should reflect best efforts to reduce recidivism. Smart-sentencing trends embrace that responsibility and enlist a wide range of strategies in pursuit of evidence-based decisions that earn public trust and confidence through accountability for public safety.

Warren, Roger K. Evidence-Based Practice to Reduce Recidivism. (2007).

This article reviews specific evidence based practices that are proven to reduce recidivism.

Evidenced-Based Sentencing to Improve Public Safety & Reduce Recidivism. (2009). National Center for State Courts and Crime & Justice Institute.

Model curriculum handbook intended to help trial judges develop sentencing practices that improve public safety and reduce the risk of offender recidivism.

Ostrom, Brian, Matthew Kleiman. Fred Cheesman, and Randall Hansen. Offender Risk Assessment in Virginia. (August 2002). 131 pages. NCSC and Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission.

A three-stage evaluation: Process of Sentencing Reform Empirical Study of Diversion and Recidivism and Benefit-Cost Analysis.

Pruning Prisons: How Cutting Corrections Can Save Money and Protect Public Safety. (May 2009).

This policy brief advocates for the use of alternatives to confinement to curb the $50 billion  annual correctional bill.

Stemen, Don Reconsidering Incarceration: New Directions for Reducing Crime. (January 2007). Current research on the relationship between incarceration and crime provides confusing and even contradictory guidance for policymakers. The most sophisticated analyses generally agree that increased incarceration rates have some effect on reducing crime, but the scope of that impact is limited: a 10 percent increase in incarceration is associated with a 2 to 4 percent drop in crime.
Hon. Michael H. Marcus. Smart Sentencing: Public Safety, Public Trust and Confidence Through Evidence-Based Dispositions.. (2006). National Center for State Courts, Future Trends in State Courts 2006.

This article discusses how a long-simmering, but often tacit debate questions whether sentencing discretion should reflect best efforts to reduce recidivism. Smart-sentencing trends embrace that responsibility and enlist a wide range of strategies in pursuit of evidence-based decisions that earn public trust and confidence through accountability for public safety.

Kauder, Neal and Brian Ostrom. State Sentencing Guidelines: Profiles and Continuum. (2008).

This report is a comparative inquiry into how sentencing guidelines shape sentences of offenders.

The Costs of Confinement: Why Good juvenile Justice Policies Make Good Fiscal Sense. (May 2009). This policy brief details how states can see a net reduction in costs associated with juvenile corrections by using more community based alternatives.

Collateral Consequences

Abbreviated Chart for Criminal Defense Practitioners of the Immigration Consequences of Criminal Convictions under Maryland State Law. (November 2006). This chart reflects the opinion of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender as to the collateral effect that a conviction under Maryland law would have on a defendant's immigration status.
Johnson, Robert M. A. Collateral Consequences. (May 2001). The National District Attorneys Association Robert M. A. Johnson is the former president of the National Association of District Attorneys and addresses the issue of collateral consequences in the prosecutorial decision-making process. 
Alec C. Ewald and Mawrnie Smith. Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions in American Courts: The View from the State Bench. (2008). Justice System Journal vol. 29, no. 2.

This article summarizes results of the first survey to query U.S. state court judges about what role collateral consequences play in criminal proceedings and about jduges' general understanding of the nature and efficacy of such sanctions.

Federal Statutes Imposing Collateral Consequences upon Conviction. The United Sates Department of Justice This article describes the possible collateral consequences caused by a criminal conviction, including impact on the right to vote, the ability to hold public office, immigration issues, firearm ownership, licensing issues, and federal benefits. The article also addresses the restoration of civil rights and the removal of legal disabilities under federal law.
American Bar Association Commission on Effective Criminal Sanctions. Internal Exile: The Collateral Consequences of Conviction in Federal Laws and Regulations. (2009). This study collects and describes the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction that arise under federal statutes and regulations.
Nicole D. Porter. Expanding the Vote: State Felony Disenfranchisement Reform, 1997-2010. (2010). This report provides an overview of reforms that have taken place since 1997. We find that since 1997, 23 states have amended felony disenfranchisement policies in an effort to reduce their restrictiveness and expand voter eligibility.
Lydia Brashear Tiede. The Impact of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and Reform: A Comparative Analysis. (2009). Justice System Journal vol. 30, no. 1.

In this article, application of the United States Sentencing Guidelines among district court judges adjudicating substantially similar drug cases is compared.  This analysis suggests that long-existing Ffederal Sentencing Guidelines schemes reduce disparities in sentences when judges apply the Guideline ranges, but not disparities associated with the choice of whether to apply those ranges.

Working Paper on the Immigration Consequences of Guilty Pleas or Convictions in New York Courts. (May 2005). This report from the New York State Judicial Institute discusses the immigration consequences, which are often unknown to noncitizen defendants, of a guilty plea or conviction to even a minor offense.

Federal Court Cases

<i>Blakely v. Washington</i>. Legal Information Institute, Cornell University This case concerns a man who kidnapped his estranged wife and received a 90-month sentence after the judge determined that the man's crime was committed with excessive cruelty.  The facts of the case warranted that the man receive a maximum sentence of 53 months.  The issue in question for the Supreme Court case is that the facts of the case that caused the judge to give the man a 90-month sentence were not found by a jury nor were they petitioned in court and therefore violated the defendant's Sixth Amendment right.
Skove, Anne. Blakely v. Washington: Implications for State Courts. (July 2004). Knowledge and Information Services.

Impact on and reactions in the states to Blakely v. Washington.

California Supreme Court Decision: <i>People Vs. Black</i>. This thirty-one page 2005 decision from the California Supreme Court addresses the impact of Blakely and Booker on California's sentencing laws.
Liptak, Adam. Sentencing Decision`s Reach Is Far and Wide. (June 2004). The New York Times This article illustrates the impact of Blakely v. Washington on court cases across the country.  This article restates the main issue of Blakely: "...any factor that increases a criminal sentence, except for prior convictions, to be proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt." 

Mandatory Minimums

Pamela M. Casey. Reducing Recidivism with Evidence-Based Sentencing. (2010). National Center for State Courts, Future Trends in State Courts 2010.

State court dockets are filled with offenders who have been through the system before and are likely to return.  Incorporating evidence-based practices into the sentencing process offers the promise of reducing recidivism while protecting public safety and controlling corrections costs.

Spohn, Cassia C. Thirty Years of Sentencing Reform: The Quest for a Racially Neutral Sentencing Process. (2000). Policies, Processes, and Decisions of the Criminal Justice System 3: 427 According to the author, racial discrimination continues to be a primary determinate in judicial sentencing disparities.  He uses 40 studies in his article, including 32 at the state judicial level and 8 that address the federal judiciary.

Organizations

Center for Sentencing Initiatives. (2008). National Center for State Courts.

Provides information, analysis, and education to promote sentencing practices that protect the public and reduce recidivism.

Criminal Sentencing Statistics. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics This web site includes information on 2002 incarceration statistics as well as a list of Bureau of Justice Statistics publications.
Death Penalty Information Center. The Death Penalty Information Center is a non-profit organization serving the media and the public with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment. 
Families Against Mandatory Minimums. Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) is a national nonprofit organization founded in 1991 to challenge inflexible and excessive penalties required by mandatory sentencing laws. FAMM promotes sentencing policies that give judges the discretion to distinguish between defendants and sentence them according to their role in the offense, seriousness of the offense and potential for rehabilitation. 
Kauder, Neal, Brian Ostrom, Meredith Peterson, and David Rottman. Sentencing Commission Profiles: State Sentencing Policy and Practice Research in Action Partnership. (1997).

Reference guide containing profiles of system designs employed by states' sentencing commissions.

Rottman, David B., et al. Tables 44-50: The Sentencing Context . (2006). Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics These t ables provide an overview of sentencing responsibilities, options, guidelines, civil disabilities for felons, and truth-in-sentencing laws in the states.
The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. This is a private, non-profit educational organization that promotes solutions to the problems facing the criminal justice system. 
The Sentencing Project. The Sentencing Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization which promotes decreased reliance on incarceration and increased use of more effective and humane alternatives.
United States Sentencing Commission. The Commission’s duties include developing guidelines for sentencing in federal courts; collecting data about crime and sentencing; and serving as a resource to Congress, the Executive Branch, and the Judiciary on crime and sentencing policy.

Sentencing Statistics

Peters, Tracy and Roger Warren. Getting Smarter About Sentencing: NCSC`s Sentencing Reform Survey. (January 2006).

The NCSC distributed a nine-question survey to the state chief justices and court administrators. This report describes the responses.

Durose, Matthew R. State Court Sentencing of Convicted Felons 2004 - Statistical Tables. (2004). This research presents statistics for adults who were convicted of a felony and sentenced in State courts. The data were collected through a survey of a nationally representative sample of State Courts in 300 counties in 2004.
The NCSC Sentencing Attitudes Survey: A Report on the Findings. (July 2006). Princeton Survey Research Associates International for NCSC

This report is based on the responses of 1,500 people surveyed via telephone to determine their attitudes about criminal sentencing.

Mauer, Marc and Ryan S. King. Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration by Race and Ethnicity. (July 2007). This report examines racial and ethnic disparities by state, and finds substantial variation in the degree of black-to-white incarceration. The report finds that African Americans are incarcerated at nearly 6 times the rate of whites and Latinos at nearly double the rate.
Reaves, Brian A. Violent Felons in Large Urban Communities. (July 2006). This is a Bureau of Justice Statistics study of violent felony convictions in the 75 most populous counties found and the statistical characteristics of the offenders.

Truth in Sentencing

Ostrom, Brian, Charles Ostrom, Roger Hanson, and Matthew Kleiman. Assessing Consistency and Fairness in Sentencing: A Comparative Study in Three States. (2008).

New Study Finds State Guidelines Boost Consistency, Reduce Discrimination in Sentencing.

Lydia Tiede, Robert Carp and Kenneth L. Manning. Judicial Attributes and Sentencing-Deviation Cases: Do Sex, Race, and Politics Matter?. (2010). Justice System Journal vol 31, no 3.

The authors test a range of judicial attributes on sentencing decisions using a database where judges must consider requests to depart from the Guidelines and the identityof judges is clearly discernible, as they analyze the effect of the landmark case U.S. v. Booker (2005).

Brennan, Michael B., and Donald V. Latorraca. Truth-in-Sentencing Comes to Wisconsin. (2000). Wisconsin Lawyer: Official Publication of the State Bar of Wisconsin 73, no. 5: 14 This website has an article explaining the 1997 Wisconsin Act 283, which instituted the statewide Truth-in-Sentencing Program, and its ramifications. The article also has relevant Wisconsin statutes pertaining to the program.
Ostrom, Brian, Fred Cheesman, Ann Jones, Meredith Peterson, and Neal Kaunder. Truth-in-Sentencing in Virginia: Evaluating the Process and Impact of Sentencing Reform.. (1999). NCSC and Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission.

Truth-In-Sentencing (TIS) tries to minimize the disparity between the sentence given by the judge and the actual amount of time a prisoner serves.  The objectives of the report are to analyze Virginia's development and implementation of TIS, forecast its impact, and evaluate the recidivism rates of Virginian offenders.