• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

How are sentences for federal, state, and local crimes determined?

Is this process fairly and justly applied to all concerned?

How have reforms affected the process over the last 25 years?

Offering a comprehensive overview of the sentencing process in the United States, How Do Judges Decide? The Search for Fairness and Justice in Punishment explores these questions and more. Author Cassia Spohn first discusses the overall concept of punishment and then analyzes individual aspects of it, including the sentencing process, the responsibility of the judge, and disparity and discrimination in sentencing. This Second Edition offers new information on the impact of sentencing reforms, including recent research and case law, updated statistics in tables and figures, and new boxed highlights.

Key Features

  • Helps students understand patterns in the wide discretion and latitude given to judges when determining penalties within the framework of the U.S. judicial system
  • Engages the reader with “Focus on an Issue” sections, which analyze key issues such as gender and sentencing (Ch.4) and the impact of race on sentencing for drug offenses (Ch.5)
  • Examines sentencing reforms and their impact, providing students with up-to-date information on how punishment is meted out in U.S. courts.
  • Contains boxed excerpts in each chapter from books and articles, with a variety of case studies on topics such as the O.J. Simpson murder trial, judicial surveys, and comparison of sentences in different jurisdictions by gender
  • Offers new material on specialty courts and the prosecutor's role in sentencing
  • Concludes each chapter with discussion questions

How Do Judges Decide? is an ideal text for upper-division undergraduate and graduate courses on the judicial system, criminal law, and law and society.

The Sentencing Reform Movement
The sentencing reform movement

What happens to an offender after conviction is the least understood, the most fraught with irrational discrepancies, and the most in need of improvement of any phase in our criminal justice system.

United States v. Waters (457 F. 2d 722 [D.C. Cir. 1970])

Concerns about disparity, discrimination, and unfairness in sentencing led to a “remarkable burst of reform” (Walker 1993:112) that began in the mid-1970s and continues today. The initial focus of reform efforts was the indeterminate sentence, in which the judge imposed a minimum and maximum sentence and the parole board determined the date of release. The parole board's determination of when the offender should be released rested on its judgment of whether the offender had been rehabilitated or ...

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