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Contribution to Book
Sentencing Guidelines
The Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice (2014)
  • Mark G. Harmon, Portland State University

Over the past 25 years sentencing guidelines have represented an important and substantial change in the US criminal justice system. Guidelines were passed to reform (or change) sentencing structures. To date, 19 states and the federal government have adopted some form of sentencing guidelines. Under guidelines, an offender's sentence is largely determined by his or her prior record and offense severity. Guidelines have shifted the structure of sentencing from an indeterminate model—where judges rely on an offender-centered approach that allows for relatively loose punishment ranges with prescribed maximums—to a determinate model. Sentencing guidelines, as a new model of punishment, move the system to a crime-centered approach with a structure that mandates more narrowly tailored punishments. The end result provides a substantial reduction in the discretionary power of judges to impose disparate sentences, along with an increased certainty with regard to the type of sentence that may be given.

  • Sentences (Criminal procedure) -- Decision making -- Analysis,
  • Mandatory sentences -- United States,
  • Discrimination in criminal justice administration -- United States
Publication Date
January, 2014
Jay S. Albanese
John Wiley & Sons, Inc
Publisher Statement
Copyright © 1999-2015 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Citation Information
Mark G. Harmon. "Sentencing Guidelines" 1stHoboken, NJThe Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice (2014)
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