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date: 04 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Sentencing guidelines are among a number of mechanisms that have been used to address the problem of how to balance sufficient discretion to individualize sentences with sufficient constraint to ensure equal justice and achieve other sentencing policy goals. The difference in where that balance lies is a policy choice that distinguishes the various sentencing guideline systems. This essay examines those policy choices. It assesses the federal and Minnesota guideline systems and the system operating in England. It describes the rejection of guidelines in New Zealand, Canada, and Australia, which challenges the values of structured sentencing. Finally, the benefits and disadvantages of guidelines are looked at alongside the conditions necessary for their successful implementation. The best of the guideline systems are not perfect, but they indicate how other jurisdictions can better regulate sentencing discretion in order to promote both proportionate and equal outcomes at the levels of both theory and practice.

Keywords: sentencing, guidelines, policy, discretion, equal justice, England, Australia, New Zealand, Canada

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