State sentencing guidelines: Diversity, consensus, and unresolved policy issues

Richard S Frase

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


State sentencing guidelines systems differ in their goals, scope of coverage, design, and operation. There are also many similarities, suggesting a substantial degree of consensus on some issues. This Essay surveys the field of state guidelines systems to identify critical areas of diversity and consensus - both in guidelines design and in the philosophical and policy goals of guidelines reform. For states considering adopting guidelines or modifying an existing guidelines system, the varying approaches found in existing systems provide a rich menu of reform options. At the same time, the Supreme Court's recent Blakely jurisprudence has provided both the necessity and the opportunity to reexamine many of the most fundamental sentencing policy issues underlying guidelines reforms. To assist policymakers and scholars in their evaluation of these difficult issues, this Essay identifies and analyzes several of the most salient guidelines policy choices about which no consensus has yet been reached, and suggests avenues for future research. These issues include resolving conflicting aims of punishment, determining the role that existing resource constraints should play in the making of sentencing policy, evaluating competing enforcement methods for guidelines rules, deciding whether to retain parole release discretion, and determining the extent to which guidelines should regulate intermediate sanctions, misdemeanor sentencing, revocation of probation and postprison release, and prosecutorial charging decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1190-1232
Number of pages43
JournalColumbia Law Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1 2005


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