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Sentencing Practices in 13 States

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 1984
This report examines the sentencing systems of 13 States as well as the judge's role in sentencing, incarceration rates, and sentence lengths.

The States studied are California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wyoming. The sentencing systems represented are described, including indeterminate sentencing, determinate sentencing, mandatory sentencing, and presumptive sentencing. The judge's role in sentencing is explored, as well as the use of sentencing guidelines by some States to improve sentencing consistency and rationality by basing decisions upon offense severity, offenders' criminal records, prevailing sentencing patterns, or some combination of these factors. Average sentence lengths for various offenses and groups of offenses are indicated; for example, indeterminate sentences for violent crimes had average minimum and maximum lengths of 131 months and 277 months; the average determinate sentence was only 102 months. Twenty-five percent of indeterminate sentences for violent crimes were for criminal homicide, in contrast to only 16 percent of the determinate sentences. Average sentences are longest for the most serious offenses and for those offenders with the most serious criminal records. Thus, while the most prominent characteristic of the sentencing systems is their diversity, there is an apparent consistency in the results. Data sources are listed, and sentencing data for the 13 States are presented. Eight tables are included.

Date Published: October 1, 1984