Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

A Sentencing System for the 21st Century?

60 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2005  

Paul H. Robinson

University of Pennsylvania Law School


The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 created the United States Sentencing Commission and directed it to devise sentencing guidelines for the federal criminal justice system. The Commission recently fulfilled this mandate, promulgating a final set of rules, which took effect November 1. Commissioner Robinson, in filing the lone dissent to these guidelines, argued that they neither meet the expectations of the Act nor provide a comprehensive and workable system.

In this Article, Commissioner Robinson discusses the necessary components of a modern, principled, and workable system. He first identifies an ideal system by describing its primary goals and by offering the drafting principles necessary to create it. Next, he offers additional drafting principles designed to construct a workable system toward the ideal and to encourage the system's consistent application and continuing refinement. Finally, Commissioner Robinson illustrates the central features of a comprehensive sentencing plan that embodies the suggested drafting principles.

Keywords: Sentencing Reform Act, sentencing, United States Sentencing Commission

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Robinson, Paul H., A Sentencing System for the 21st Century?. Texas Law Review, Vol. 66, pp. 1-61, 1987. Available at SSRN:

Paul H. Robinson (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Paper statistics

Abstract Views