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A Map of Sentencing and a Compass for Judges: Sentencing Information Systems, Transparency, and the Next Generation of Reform

Marc L. Miller
Columbia Law Review
Vol. 105, No. 4 (May, 2005), pp. 1351-1395
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4099436
Page Count: 45
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A Map of Sentencing and a Compass for Judges: Sentencing Information Systems, Transparency, and the Next Generation of Reform
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Abstract

No modern structured sentencing system provides easily accessible data describing individual sentences or dynamic sentencing patterns and practices. Limited availability of individual and systemic data (in contrast to annual and other special reports) goes handrin-hand with limited efforts by state reformers to compare sentencing law and experience across states or to compare states to the federal system. The limited access to information and lack of visible efforts to craft an active sentencing reform dialogue may help to explain the undue scholarly focus on the failed federal reforms over far more positive state sentencing reform experiments. Sentencing reform everywhere can be improved if state actors make sentencing information and sentencing data publicly available and easily accessible and speak to other systems. One promising approach to improve sentencing law and sentencing discourse is the development of sentencing information systems (SIS). An SIS depicts decisions within each system and allows observers without technical data skills, including judges, to ask a variety of questions that relate to individual case decisions, assessments of particular sentencing factors, sentencing variation, sentencing process, and even sentencing purposes.

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