Criticism of Federal Sentencing Guidelines

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When federal judges decide sentencing for people convicted of crimes, they rely on the federal sentencing guidelines.  These guidelines offer recommended sentences based on the type of crime and the criminal history of the defendant.  These guidelines have helped make sentencing fairer and more transparent.  However, there are some criticisms of the system.

One of the biggest criticisms of federal sentencing guidelines is that they lead to unjust results.  The guidelines focus on the type of crime committed and the criminal history of the defendant.  The guidelines therefore ignore the exact circumstances of each case.  As a result, some people get stiff sentences when they really only had a minor role in the crime.

Another criticism of the sentencing guidelines is that they lead to prison overcrowding.  The recommended sentences include incarceration and fines.  They do not offer other methods of punishment, such as community based programs and rehabilitation programs.  These programs can serve to punish and reform nonviolent criminals without putting them in prison.

Federal sentencing guidelines have been the subject of a great deal of debate lately.  It is unclear, though, whether any major changes will be made to the system which might ease these problems.

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Last Modified: 08-10-2009 11:55 AM PDT

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