Sentencing Guidelines:

What Is Their Potential Impact on Federal Prisons and Should Their Implementation be Delayed?

T-GGD-87-25: Published: Jul 29, 1987. Publicly Released: Jul 29, 1987.

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GAO discussed the: (1) potential impact of the United States Sentencing Commission's proposed sentencing guidelines on the federal prison system; and (2) Commission's request for a delay in implementation of the guidelines. GAO noted that: (1) the Commission believes that its guidelines will have a minimal effect on future prison populations; (2) the Commission still expects significant growth in the federal prison population because of increased convictions and stronger mandatory sentencing requirements; (3) if the Commission's estimates are accurate, it could cost several billion dollars over the next decade to build sufficient prison space; (4) the increased prison population could add as much as $1.1 billion annually to the cost of inmate custody, care, and rehabilitation programs; (5) the Commission's methodology for estimating future prison populations appears reasonable; (6) a delay in implementation of the guidelines would allow for more comprehensive field testing and training; and (7) a delay in implementation would also require legislation that could hinder the Commission's purpose.

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