Federal Sentencing Guidelines: The Continuous Line between Unwarranted Disparities and Institutional Discretion in Federal Sentencing
Master of Arts
Department or Program
In 1984, the Federal Sentencing Reform Act was signed into law. This act of reformation set a new standard of mandatory minimum federal sentencing guidelines for anyone who was convicted of an unlawful crime. Under the Federal Sentencing Reform Act, Congress created a new agency, the United States Sentencing Commission. As a bi-partisan, independent agency, the United States Sentencing Commission set the standard of guidelines with the objective to decrease unwarranted disparities within the federal system. Federal Supreme Court cases like United States v Booker overturned federal guidelines moving them mandatory to advisory based on a Sixth Amendment violation. With the reform guidelines already evidently impacting the federal judicial system, research has explored extralegal factors and actively works towards identifying other disparities. To expand on this forum, research is leaning into measuring prosecutorial and judicial discretion within sentencing. The objective of this research paper is to examine how research has used extralegal factors, legal discretion, and policy reform to analyze federal sentencing disparities.