Too Severe?: A Defense of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines (And a Critique of Federal Mandatory Minimums)

32 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2011  

Paul G. Cassell

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law

Date Written: July, 13 2011

Abstract

Are the federal sentencing practices too tough? This Article answers that question in light of the purposes of criminal sentencing: just punishment and crime control. The Article contents that the Federal Sentencing Guidelines satisfy both of these goals but that mandatory minimum sentences are redundant and should be reconsidered.

On the dimension of just punishment, the Guidelines generally track social norms by providing prison sentences that are consistent with the public’s view of appropriate punishment. On the dimension of crime control, the Guidelines create significant incapacitative and deterrence benefits by prescribing substantial penalties for serious federal crimes with high costs to victims. The Article concludes that, given this strong potential as cost-effective crime control measures, it is hard to understand how the Guidelines can be deemed too severe. It further finds that the mandatory minimum sentences serve only to prevent downward departures from the Guidelines in unusual cases, which can lead to possible injustices in particular cases.

Keywords: Victim, Crime Victim, Impact Statement, Criminal Justice, Sentencing

Suggested Citation

Cassell, Paul G., Too Severe?: A Defense of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines (And a Critique of Federal Mandatory Minimums) (July, 13 2011). Stanford Law Review, Vol. 56, p. 1017, 2004. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1885078

Paul G. Cassell (Contact Author)

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law ( email )

383 S. University Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0730
United States
801-585-5202 (Phone)
801-581-6897 (Fax)

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