Truth In Sentencing Policies and the Effects on Courts and Prisons

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Society has high expectations for criminal justice. Controlling the behavior of people is a difficult task, and there are several differing opinions on how this should happen. Many believe this can best accomplished by prevention through deterrence. Deterrence can be achieved from increased police patrols, good relationships with the community, and through tough penalties for convicted criminals. When deterrence fails, criminals need to be identified and held accountable for their actions. Law enforcement enforces many different crimes; some of the most serious crimes are violent crimes.

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, violent crime is defined by four offenses: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault (FBI, 2007). Defeating the threat of violent offenders is important to the safety of society. Many can agree safety is important; however holding offenders accountable varies from state to state. Traditionally, there has been disparity among sentencing violent offenders. One way to reduce this disparity is to have uniform guidance to help judges determine the appropriate sentences a violent offender should receive. Many have argued against the perceived truth in sentences, when violators are being released without serving the majority of their sentences.


Each state is responsible for controlling crime. One area many states wanted to focus their efforts to combat crime was against violent offenders. In the 1980s, States enacted tougher punishments for violent offenders in efforts to lessen the disparity among sentences. These efforts included mandatory minimum sentences and Truth-in-sentencing. In 1994, the Violent Crime Cont...

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...ractices. Retrieved on May 22, 2010 from the National Institute of Justice website:

Sabol, William et al (2002) Influence of Truth in Sentencing Reforms on States’ Sentencing Systems. Retrieved on May 23, 2010 from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service website:

Uniform Crime Report (2007) Retrieved from the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau

Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, PL 103-322 § 20101

VanEgeren, J (2009) Prison populations, corrections budget spike during truth in sentencing. Retrieved on May 21, 2010 from the website:

2009 Federal Sentencing Guidelines Manual
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