A Map of Sentencing and a Compass for Judges: Sentencing Information Systems, Transparency and the Next Generation of Reform
48 Pages Posted: 24 Feb 2005
No modern structured sentencing system provides easily accessible data describing individual sentences or dynamic sentencing patterns and practices. Limited availability of either individual or systemic data (in contrast to annual and other special reports) goes hand-in-hand with paltry efforts by state reformers to compare sentencing law and experience across states or to compare states to the federal system. The limited access to information and lack of visible efforts to craft an active sentencing reform dialogue may help to explain the undue scholarly focus on the failed federal reforms over far more positive state sentencing reform experiments. Sentencing reform everywhere can be improved if state actors make sentencing information and sentencing data publicly available and easily accessible and speak to and acknowledge other systems. One promising approach to improve sentencing systems and sentencing discourse is sentencing information systems ("SIS"). SIS depict decisions within each system and allow observers without technical data skills, including judges, to ask a variety of questions that relate to individual case decisions, assessments of particular sentencing factors, sentencing variation, sentencing process, and even sentencing purposes.
Keywords: sentencing, sentences, sentencing information systems, guidelines, structured sentencing, sentencing data
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