A map of sentencing and a compass for judges: Sentencing information systems, transparency, and the next generation of reform

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Abstract

No modern structured sentencing system provides easily accessible data describing individual sentences or dynamic sentencing patterns and practices. Limited availability of individual and systemic data (in contrast to annual and other special reports) goes hand-in-hand with limited efforts by state reformers to compare sentencing law and experience across states or to compare states to the federal system. The limited access to information and lack of visible efforts to craft an active sentencing reform dialogue may help to explain the undue scholarly focus on the failed federal reforms over far more positive state sentencing reform experiments. Sentencing reform everywhere can be improved if state actors make sentencing information and sentencing data publicly available and easily accessible and speak to other systems. One promising approach to improve sentencing law and sentencing discourse is the development of sentencing information systems (SIS). An SIS depicts decisions within each system and allows observers without technical data skills, including judges, to ask a variety of questions that relate to individual case decisions, assessments of particular sentencing factors, sentencing variation, sentencing process, and even sentencing purposes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1351-1395
Number of pages45
JournalColumbia Law Review
Volume105
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2005
Externally publishedYes

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law

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