The Impact of Sentencing Guidelines on the Criminal Justice System
Public Safety Capstone Project
Our criminal justice system has an obligation to impose fair sentences. The United States
Sentencing Commission is the result of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 that had laws created
to ensure that sentencing was fair from state to state, and a judge provided proof of that
sentencing was indeed black and white. To eliminate the possibility of being unjust, the
government became involved in creating guidelines on the punishment that was rendered based
on the type or types of crimes an individual committed. Sentencing guidelines were imposed to
set the terms that would fit the ...view middle of the document...
people, a number greater than the population of Houston, Texas (Hall, 2012).” Due to
mandatory prison sentences not only did it raise the populations in our prisons, but it is forcing
state and local criminal justice systems to spend more money on prisons when it could be spent
on crime prevention.
Hall, S. (2012). The American Bar Association. Policies that Impact the Criminal Justice System.
Sentencing guidelines carry mandatory prison sentences for an array of offenses, including
nonviolent drug charges and this has swelled the nation’s prison population. Mandatory prison
sentences raise prison populations, forcing state and local criminal justice systems to spend more
money on prisons where this money could be spent on crime prevention or other law
Leavitt, J. (2011). Brigham Young University Law Review: How United States v. Ressam Encourages
Overly Stringent Review of Sentencing Decisions. 2011 B.Y.U.L. Rev. 171.
In the case of United States v. Ressam the United States appellate courts were to examine all
sentences inside and outside of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, for both procedural errors
and substantive reasonableness, using the abuse-of-discretion standard. The Court’s Decision
the Ninth Circuit, vacated Ressam’s sentence based on errors in the sentencing process: failure to
properly consider guidelines and failure to adequately address the government’s arguments
regarding Ressam’s history and characteristics, the value of his cooperation with prosecutors, and
the need for a longer sentence to adequately protect the public. Due to these traditional policies
and standards were used to examine Ressam’s sentence for procedural error that had failed to
accord the district court the deference it should have received under a properly applied abuse-of-
discretion standard. This case is an example of how District courts must ensure that sentences
that they impose meet certain requirements in order to pass appellate scrutiny. Appellate courts
review such sentences under the deferential abuse-of-discretion review standard by assessing two
parts: procedural error and substantive reasonableness. If judges are to sentence outside of these
guidelines it would require “sufficiently compelling” justification. This case shows how
sentencing guidelines impact the Criminal Justice system.
Parent, D; Dunworth, T; McDonald, D; & Rhodes, W. (1996). National Institute of Justice: The Impact
Of Sentencing Guidelines. https://www.ncjrs.gov/txtfiles/sentguid.txt
The use of sentencing guidelines in the United States has been growing and generated a debate
with respects to their effects on the criminal justice system in jurisdictions and where they have
been enacted. In 1996,...