Just Sentencing: Principles and Procedures for a Workable System

Richard S. Frase

Research output: Book/ReportBook

70 Scopus citations


This book presents a hybrid sentencing model integrating theory and practice. The theory is an expanded version of limiting retributivism that accommodates crime control and other nonretributive purposes of punishment, including utilitarian proportionality and minimizing racial disparity. The model's procedures are inspired by the best American state guidelines systems and the revised Model Penal Code. A hybrid sentencing theory is normatively superior and practically necessary. It is unreasonable to propose a purely retributive or purely crime-control model that ignores competing values, and any one-dimensional model would not succeed in practice or even be adopted (all modern sentencing systems recognize both retributive and crime-control goals). Sentencing procedures must likewise achieve an acceptable balance, especially between two strongly competing procedural ideals-rule versus discretion-each of which has important advantages. Rules promote consistency and predictability; discretion promotes flexibility and efficiency (parsimony). Procedures must also strike a workable balance in the use of custodial and noncustodial sentencing options, and in the powers of systemic and case-level decision makers (the legislature, sentencing commission, judges, attorneys, and correctional officials). Sentencing guidelines are usually seen as reflecting strong preferences for rules over discretion, and for system-wide over case-level policymaking, but that is not how the best state guidelines systems actually work. Like the proposed model, these systems structure sentencing discretion but leave judges and other officials with a substantial degree of discretion to tailor the form and severity of sanctions to the facts of particular cases so as to achieve justice, effective crime control, and efficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages304
ISBN (Electronic)9780199979547
ISBN (Print)9780199757862
StatePublished - Jan 24 2013


  • Limiting retributivism
  • Model Penal Code
  • Parsimony
  • Proportionality
  • Purposes of punishment
  • Racial disparity
  • Sentencing
  • Sentencing commission
  • Sentencing guidelines
  • Sentencing theory


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