CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Gwin on the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and Community Values

James Gwin has posted Juror Sentiment on Just Punishment: Do the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Reflect Community Values? (Harvard Law & Policy Review, Vol. 4, pp. 173-200, 2010) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Do the Federal Sentencing Guidelines reflect community sentiment regarding appropriate punishment? This paper describes a study where juries were surveyed after they had given guilty verdicts. The author then compared the jurors' recommendations with the Federal Sentencing Guidelines recommended sentence. Combining 22 cases of various types, the median juror recommended sentence was only 19% of the median Guidelines ranges and only 36% of the bottom of the Guidelines ranges.

The author argues that the Federal Sentencing Guidelines correctly emphasized retribution as the most important sentencing purpose. If retributive considerations should dominate, the author says the ranges chosen should align with community sentiment. Although the study is limited, it suggests the current Guidelines values do not. The author recommends juror questionnaires as an easy facility to better guage community sentiment without diminishing the Guidelines desire to reduce sentencing disparities.

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