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State Sentencing Guidelines: A Garden Full of Variety

Volume 81 Number 2
September 2017

Over forty years ago, sentencing in the U.S. was primarily “indeterminate,” with judges pronouncing long sentence terms consisting of minimum and maximum times to serve, and parole boards exercising their discretion in reviewing individual cases for release from prison. Since 1980, multiple states, the federal government, and the District of Columbia have enacted sentencing guidelines. The author describes some of the major features of sentencing guidelines in the states and relates them, where possible, to the federal sentencing guidelines.