Thirtieth Anniversary Today of U.S. Sentencing Guidelines

Today marks 30 years of federal sentencing under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. The Guidelines were intended to promote uniformity and certainty in sentencing while providing punishment proportional to the offense of conviction. Since then, over 1.7 million people have been sentenced to over 6.5 million YEARS of prison, which is to say nothing of the millions of years of probation and supervised release also imposed along the way. As a result, the federal Bureau of Prisons, already well over capacity, remains the largest penal system in the country–a country that incarcerates more humans than any other nation on earth both in absolute terms and per capita. And at a cost of over $7 billion just last year, it also is by far the most expensive. Thus, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which maintains the Guidelines, arguably has wielded more power over the liberty of more people at more cost than any other non-military agency in the history of civilization. And what, after 30 years, have the Guidelines achieved….?
Mark Allenbaugh

Mark Allenbaugh is co-founder of Sentencing Stats. He is a former staff attorney for the U.S. Sentencing Commission, and a co-editor of "Sentencing, Sanctions, and Corrections: Federal and State Law, Policy, and Practice" (2nd ed., Foundation Press, 2002).

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