The calculus of the record: Criminal history in the making of US Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Wake Forest Univ. Legal Studies Paper No. Forthcoming

Theoretical Criminology, 2016, Vol. 20(2) 145-164

20 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2023

See all articles by Alyse Bertenthal

Alyse Bertenthal

Wake Forest University - School of Law

Mona Lynch

University of California, Irvine - Department of Criminology, Law and Society

Date Written: 2016

Abstract

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines, developed by the United States Sentencing Commission in the I 980s, appear to exemplify the turn from individualization toward aggregated, rationalized risk management that ostensibly became hegemonic in the late 20th century. In this article, we challenge that presumption by building on Harcourt's (2007) argument that penal actuarialism emerged as part of the individualization project rather than as a repudiation of it. We trace how 'criminal history' came to be the primary mode for capturing defendant characteristics in the Guidelines formula, and delineate how time became the unit of quantification to transform criminal history into ordinal measures of current culpability. We draw three lessons from this case study: about the durability of old practices and logics; about how the individual penal subject lives on in sentencing regimes like the federal Guidelines system; and about the metrics of time and history as ways of knowing the juridical subject.

Keywords: Actuarialism, criminal record, punishment and society, sentencing, temporality

Suggested Citation

Bertenthal, Alyse and Lynch, Mona, The calculus of the record: Criminal history in the making of US Federal Sentencing Guidelines ( 2016). Wake Forest Univ. Legal Studies Paper No. Forthcoming, Theoretical Criminology, 2016, Vol. 20(2) 145-164, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4614152

Alyse Bertenthal (Contact Author)

Wake Forest University - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 7206
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
United States

Mona Lynch

University of California, Irvine - Department of Criminology, Law and Society ( email )

2340 Social Ecology 2, RM
Irvine, CA 92697
United States

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