Reducing Federal Judicial Sentencing and Prosecuting Disparities:

A Systemwide Approach Needed

GGD-78-112: Published: Mar 19, 1979. Publicly Released: Mar 19, 1979.

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Despite considerable attention, differences in the treatment of offenders continue to be a problem throughout the Federal criminal justice system. Although some differences in treatment are necessary, other disparities create doubt about the fairness of the system. The most obvious occur at the time of prosecution and sentencing of defendants who have similar backgrounds and are accused of similar offenses.

The major reason differences occur is attributable to the limited information available to officials exercising discretion and to the lack of guidance and criteria for those officials to use when exercising discretion. All areas of the criminal justice system lack such guidance. Due to the lack of data reporting procedures and an effective reporting mechanism, only limited information is available for determining whether the types and length of sentences are adequate or whether statutes used in sentencing are appropriate.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: As the policymaking body for the Federal judicial system, the Judicial Conference should: establish appropriate policy guidance for judges to use at their discretion in sentencing decisions; establish a reporting and review mechanism to collect sentencing data and to study the adequacy of sentencing decisions; and request from Congress any legislative, statutory, or rule changes needed to improve the sentencing process. The Attorney General should use the results of the ongoing assessments of prosecutive disparities as a basis for: (1) establishing uniform guidelines and procedures for all U.S. attorneys to use in deciding what violations of the criminal statutes to prosecute; (2) providing U.S. attorneys with policies and procedures to govern their use of plea bargaining so that consistency in plea bargaining can be achieved throughout all districts; and (3) establishing a reporting and review mechanism to collect data on prosecutive decisions and to study the adequacy of these decisions.

    Agency Affected:


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