Crime & Justice
Sentencing commissions, administrative agencies charged to develop and promulgate standards for sentencing, were first proposed early in the 1970s and first established in 1978. Of four recent major sentencing reform approaches-the others being parole guidelines, voluntary sentencing guidelines, and statutory determinate sentences-only sentencing commission systems continue to be created. Despite controversies associated with the highly unpopular federal guidelines, commissions and their guidelines have achieved their primary goals. Some commissions have achieved specialized technical competence, have adopted comprehensive policy approaches, and have to a degree insulated policy from short-term political pressures. Guidelines have reduced disparities and gender and sex differences in sentencing and by tying policies to available resources have enabled some jurisdictions to resist national trends toward greatly increased prison populations.
Michael Tonry, Sentencing Commissions and Their Guidelines, 17 Crime & Just. 137 (1993), available at http://scholarship.law.umn.edu/faculty_articles/481.