Sentencing guidelines aid the criminal justice system in matching the severity of the offender’s crime (and criminal history) to the length of a term in prison. Sentencing guidelines combine minimum mandatory sentencing models with presumptive sentencing models. Sentencing guidelines help the criminal justice system by providing a few key advantages: 1) Guidelines help to reduce ‘judicial favoritism’ by having the punishment set according to the crime’s severity. 2) Guidelines create ‘uniformity’ among the punishment of an offender’s crime, and 3) Guidelines used with the determinate sentencing model has been shown to reduce overall incarceration rates. In the next paragraph, sentencing models will be discussed.
General sentencing options are consolidated in a statute passed by the legislature which is identified in the state (or federal) penal codes. There are six general sentencing options that judges use: 1) Economic sanctions 2) Probation 3) Intermediate Sanctions
4) Short-term confinement 5) Imprisonment, and 6) Capital Punishment.
Sentencing models apply to state and federal penal codes. They include forms of general sentencing options that range from highly rigid punishment sentencing with no judicial discretion to indeterminate judicial forms of sentencing. Primarily, the two main models of sentencing used in the United States are determinate and indeterminate.
However, there are many variations to these two models of sentencing. Early forms of determinate sentencing include ‘truth in sentencing’, and ‘good time’. The “three strikes law” is a form of mandatory sentencing. It imposes a greater punishment for third-time offenders of certain crimes. Presumptive sentencing is a model that allows a judge to consider the mitigating and aggravating characteristics of a case to determine sentencing. Lastly, a judge’s position in the criminal justice system has brought several challenges to the discretion judges can use in criminal cases. Three types of judicial sentencing models exist for this reason: 1) judicial form of sentencing 2) administrative form of sentencing, and 3) the legislative form of sentencing. The judicial form of sentencing gives judges primary discretion in setting a sentence. The administrative form of sentencing gives administrative bodies (such as a parole board) primary discretion in setting a sentence. The legislative form of sentencing gives state and federal legislative bodies primary discretion in setting a sentence. In all, the legislative form of sentencing dominates, and includes truth in sentencing, mandatory minimum sentences, and presumptive sentencing. The legislative form of sentencing uses previously mentioned sentencing guidelines.