Probability and Punishment: How to Improve Sentencing by Taking Account of Probability

New Criminal Law Review, Vol. 18, p. 214, 2015

46 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2014 Last revised: 13 Nov 2015

Jacob Schuman

Harvard University - Law School - Alumni

Date Written: January 7, 2014

Abstract

The United States Sentencing Guidelines place little emphasis on probability. Instead, the Guidelines recommend a sentence in each case based only on whether certain facts about the offender’s crime exceed a “threshold” level of likelihood. Guidelines sentences therefore fail to reflect the precise odds of each defendant’s wrongdoing, which makes them both inefficient and unfair. This model of decision-making is particularly problematic in drug sentencing, where judges often impose lengthy sentences based on drug quantity calculations that carry a high risk of error. To address these problems, district courts should exercise their discretion and policymakers should implement reforms that incorporate probability into punishment.

Keywords: criminal law, criminal procedure, sentencing, drugs, quantity, probability

Suggested Citation

Schuman, Jacob, Probability and Punishment: How to Improve Sentencing by Taking Account of Probability (January 7, 2014). New Criminal Law Review, Vol. 18, p. 214, 2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2376066 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2376066

Jacob Schuman (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Law School - Alumni ( email )

5163 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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