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date: 03 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article reviews the contemporary state of knowledge on criminal sentencing and sentencing systems in the United States. It begins with a discussion of the major sentencing innovations that have been enacted over the past four decades. These include parole abolition and truth-in-sentencing laws, statutory determinate sentencing, mandatory minimum sentences, and state and federal sentencing guidelines, along with a brief discussion of recent constitutionality issues in federal sentencing. Next, it discusses contemporary research evidence for consistency, uniformity, and equality in sentencing, focusing particularly on the evidence concerning racial, ethnic, gender, socioeconomic, and geographic disparities in punishment. Research assessing the effect of modern sentencing reforms is also reviewed, followed by a discussion of evidence-based policy recommendations. It concludes with an analysis of future directions for research on criminal sentencing.

Keywords: criminal sentencing, sentencing systems, parole, truth-in-sentencing laws, statutory determinate sentencing, minimum sentences, punishment, sentencing reforms

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