The Truth about Truth in Sentencing

By Mauer, Marc | Corrections Today, February 1996 | Go to article overview

The Truth about Truth in Sentencing


Mauer, Marc, Corrections Today


"Truth in sentencing,, may be one of the most misunderstood concepts in the criminal justice field. At a time when policymakers at the state and national level are promoting various truth-in-sentencing schemes, it is important to examine the broad range of goals, objectives and ideologies that are tied to this concept.

In recent years, truth in sentencing has gained much prominence at the federal level. The federal sentencing guidelines that went into effect in 1987 incorporated truth in sentencing, whereby offenders are required to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence. Both the 1994 and 1995 federal crime bills contained provisions to encourage states to adopt truth in sentencing as a condition of receiving federal prison construction aid. States that require that violent offenders serve at least 85 percent of their sentences are eligible for funding from the truth-in-sentencing portion of the $10 billion package of federal assistance.

A number of states also have adopted varying types of truth-in-sentencing legislation in recent years. These have been developed in a variety of ways -- as part of efforts to abolish parole, to adopt certain kinds of determinate sentencing guidelines and to implement other sentencing reforms.

Clearly, the impact of truth in sentencing will vary tremendously depending on the type of policy adopted and the goals behind it. In order to assess its impact, we need to understand the rationales and goals of these various policies.

As this assessment is done, what becomes even more clear is the need to examine both the intended and unintended consequences of such policies, such as what impact these policies will have on public safety, prison populations and the cost of corrections. Policies such as these also raise fundamental questions about decision-making within the criminal justice system-that is, to what extent it is desirable to maintain discretion within the system and, if so, in which parts of the system that discretion should reside. Once we begin to address these questions, we find that the development of effective and rational policy is more complex than it might appear at first.

Goals of Truth in Sentencing

Before we can assess the usefulness and impact of truth-in-sentencing policies, it is necessary to define the various goals of these policies. These generally can be categorized under three sometimes overlapping areas:

* To restore truth,, in the sentencing process so the public knows how much time an offender will serve in prison.

* To increase the proportion of a sentence that is served in prison, generally to percent, and/or to eliminate parole release as a means of reducing crime by keeping offenders incarcerated for a longer period of time.

* To control the use of prison space, often in conjunction with a guidelines system, so decision makers know in advance what the impact of sentencing will be on prison populations.

Truth in Sentencing's Impact

An assessment of the potential impact of truth-in-sentencing policies requires first that we define the various policies that fall under this terminology and second, that we consider their stated goals.

Restoring "truth" to the sentencing process.

An argument frequently made by proponents of truth in sentencing is that the public is confused and deceived about how much time offenders will serve in prison. For example, in an indeterminate sentencing state a burglar might receive a sentence of three to five years but be released on parole after serving "only" two years.

The source of this public dissatisfaction goes beyond just the perceived "untruthfulness" of the sentencing process. At a basic level, it reflects the general public fear of crime. Crime rates rose significantly in the 1960s and '70s, and the public's fear of crime began to escalate as well. People's fear of victimization, whether accurate or not, often focuses on the criminal justice system as the source of their problems, since common sense suggests that the system should be able to "cure" crime.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Truth about Truth in Sentencing
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.