Sentencing Proportionality in the States
35 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2011 Last revised: 30 Mar 2012
Date Written: December 12, 2011
It seems axiomatic in a “society of laws and not of men” that a sentence ought to be generally proportioned in degree to the underlying criminal offense. Extreme sentences, when they appear disproportionate to the underlying offense, undermine public confidence in the justice system, are ineffectual as deterrents to an angry public who perceive them as unjust, and are not useful in reforming the criminal who can see no fairness in such an extreme sentence. This Note explores the principles and analytical tools several states’ judiciaries have expounded to analyze the proportionality of sentences, and concludes that these states have formulated a coherent and workable system of review that other jurisdictions can take advantage of by either legislative or judicial action.
Keywords: proportionality, sentencing, sentencing proportionality, proportional sentences, Eighth Amendment, state sentencing, punishment, cruel and unusual punishment
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