Sentencing Posts

Setting Limits on Mass Conviction

For the past several years, the Collateral Consequences Resource Center has been documenting the emergence of an extraordinary legislative trend in the states that is aimed at helping individuals overcome the adverse consequences of a criminal record. It appears that lawmakers are at last recognizing the economic disadvantages of having burdened almost a third of the adult population with some sort of criminal record, the product of a vast expansion of criminal prosecutions over the past thirty years.

Can Federal Sentencing Remain Transparent?

Criminal trials have virtually disappeared in many federal courtrooms. According to a recent U.S. Sentencing Commission report, “[i]n recent years, 97 percent of federal defendants convicted of a felony or Class A misdemeanor offense are adjudicated guilty based on a guilty plea rather than on a verdict at a trial.”

The Model Penal Code Goes to Congress: Sentence Reduction for Compelling Reasons

The Model Penal Code: Sentencing (MPC) is not specifically designed or intended to influence sentencing in the federal system, although the MPC itself often reflects the influence of federal law. In one recent case, the influence of one upon the other appears mutual: an MPC provision modeled on a federal statute authorizing reduction of prison sentences may have been at least indirectly responsible for changing its federal model. The change at issue, discussed below, reinforces the fundamental tenet of the MPC that courts should have primary responsibility for determining sentences, as opposed to legislatures or corrections officials.

First Thoughts About ‘Second Look’ and Other Sentence Reduction Provisions of the Model Penal Code: Sentencing Revision


The financial cost of mass incarceration has prompted states to pass legislation providing for early release of prisoners. Although early release laws are frequently in tension with principles underlying sentencing systems, most have been passed without any discussion of how they might be justified in theory.