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October 23, 2005

Missouri's interesting sentencing developments

Thanks to this AP article, I see that Missouri is about to roll out a risk-oriented, information-driven, computer-aided program for providing state judges with sentencing recommendations.  Here is a passage from this press release from the Missouri Sentencing Advisory Commission about this notable development:

Missouri will launch a new pre-sentence investigation format November 1 that will provide judges with information for making effective sentencing decisions.... These new reports contain details about offenders and their offenses with various background data including criminal histories, victim impact statements, and offenders' personal characteristics. To assess offenders' likelihood of re-offending, risk factors are identified and scored. About half the scored factors deal with prior criminal history, while the other factors score particular characteristics that statisticians find are related to the chance for success or failure on probation or parole, such as substance abuse, education level, and employment history.

As explained on this page at the Missouri Sentencing Advisory Commission's website, concerns about the over-use of incarceration for non-violent offenders and about sentencing disparity are among the driving forces for Missouri's sentencing reform efforts.  These efforts, and the new recommended sentencing system, are discussed more fully in this lengthy report from the Commission.  That report includes this telling footnote:

The commission decided to abandon the use of the phrase "sentencing guidelines" because the same phrase is used in the federal courts to describe a system that is entirely different from the sentencing system in Missouri courts. The commission labels its work as Sentencing Recommendations because that is what they are. They are not compulsory. The Missouri Sentencing Advisory Commission does not support a federal style guidelines system. In fact, the federal system has been rendered voluntary by the US Supreme Court decisions in Blakely (6/24/04) and Booker (1/12/05).

October 23, 2005 at 08:17 AM | Permalink

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