Presentation on theme: "What Works in Sentencing? Evidence from the United States Cassia Spohn School of Criminology and Criminal Justice Arizona State University."— Presentation transcript:
What Works in Sentencing? Evidence from the United States Cassia Spohn School of Criminology and Criminal Justice Arizona State University
Two Questions Have the dramatic increases in the number of persons imprisoned in the U.S. led to a reduction in crime? Have the sentencing reforms (e.g., mandatory minimum sentences and sentencing guidelines) implemented over the past several decades produced the predicted instrumental effects?
What Caused the Imprisonment Boom? Increase in crime ◦ Problem: both violent and property crime rates declined as imprisonment rate increased Increase in likelihood of imprisonment given arrest* Increase in length of time served*
Did Changes in Sentencing Policy and Practice Reduce Crime? Targeting dangerous, high-rate offenders can reduce crime through incapacitation But, increasing the severity of sentences has had little, if any, deterrent effect on crime
The Deterrent Effect of Mandatory Minimum Sentences Evidence suggests that they have little (if any) effect on crime Evidence also suggests that ◦ MMs are frequently circumvented or manipulated by prosecutors, judges, juries ◦ Factors that predict use of MMs are not racially neutral ◦ Practitioners often believe that MMs are unjust
Sentencing Guidelines and Unwarranted Disparity Three decades of research suggests that disparities based on gender and race/ethnicity have not been eliminated ◦ Large gender disparities ◦ Smaller, but still significant, disparities based on race and ethnicity
Conclusion Evidence that punitive approach does not work to improve public safety, reduce crime Evidence that drug courts and diversion programs do work Policymakers disillusioned with punitive policies ◦ Attorney General Holder’s “Smart on Crime Initiative”