Pub. date: 2002 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412950664 | Print ISBN: 9780761922582 | Online ISBN: 9781412950664| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Don M. Gottfredson
The term guidelines is common in criminal justice jargon and in sentencing legislation, but two meanings should be distinguished. In its first sense, only a few criteria without clear definitions or indications of their relative importance constitute guidelines for sentencing. Too vague to be useful, such guidelines could not be expected to have a significant influence on judges' decisions. In its other sense, however, guidelines provide rules that are more specific and precise; they show expected sentences for convicted offenders but permit (or even encourage) judicial discretion when special circumstances are present. Such guidelines are narrow enough to promote consistency in sentencing, yet they allow leeway for modifications based on characteristics of the individual offense and offender. Guidelines were first devised by research workers in an early 1970s study of parole decision making done in collaboration with the U.S. Board of Parole (now the U.S. Parole Commission). These researchers developed ...