Purposes and functions of sentencing

Michael Tonry

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

41 Scopus citations


American sentencing systems have fragmented since the modern sentencing reform movement began in the 1970s and predominant retributive theories of punishment have become obsolete. Indeterminate sentencing was ubiquitous, but when it lost credibility, no single approach it. replaced it. Every American jurisdiction has a crazy quilt of diverse and, in principle if not practice, irreconcilable elements. Influential retributive theories of punishment were a 1970s response to 1970s problems that no longer galvanize opinion or reform. They are incompatible with the recent growth of restorative and community justice, therapeutic jurisprudence, prisoner reentry programs, and knowledge about the effectiveness of treatment programs. Theories of punishment can provide normative criteria by which policies and practices can be measured, but to be used in that way they must speak to their own times. New sentencing systems more effective and more just than current fragmented systems can be developed, and they will be better if new normative theories germane to them develop in tandem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCrime and Justice A Review of Research
PublisherUniversity of Chicago Press
Number of pages53
ISBN (Print)0226808599, 9780226808598
StatePublished - 2006

Publication series

NameCrime and Justice
ISSN (Print)0192-3234


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