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Sentencing Quiz Study Guide

Updated on February 26, 2015

What was the purpose of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984?

The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 was created with the purpose of abolishing parole in the federal system and establishing the United States Sentencing Commission. The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, cut down on the broad discretion that was granted to federal judges in sentencing; this Act required that all judges sentence defendants based on the sentencing guidelines created by the United States Sentencing Commission.

What is the relationship between the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 and the ideal of prison as a vehicle for criminal rehabilitation?

Prior to the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 the judges had a broad range of discretion for sentencing. This discretion was granted to judges so as to allow them to tailor sentences to each defendant with the hopes of offender rehabilitation. During the 1970’s the research on the effectiveness of prison-based rehabilitation programs came under a lot of scrutiny. This scrutiny lead to the theory of “just desserts”, meaning people should get what they deserve. This theory in part led to the creation of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 created sentencing guidelines to ensure defendants of similar crimes and histories received similar punishments instead of tailored rehabilitation programs. The act moved away from the idea of prison as a vehicle for criminal rehabilitation and towards “just desserts”.

What is the United States Sentencing Commission, and what is its role?

The United States Sentencing Commission is a commission that was created by the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. The United States Sentencing Commission was formed in order to create criminal sentencing guidelines which would provide certainty and fairness in sentencing. These guidelines gave set sentences that the judges were to give to criminals who committed similar crimes and had similar records. The act was designed to cut down on unwarranted sentencing disparities amongst defendants with comparable records that had been found guilty of analogous criminal conduct.

What role does a forensic psychologist play in sentencing?

A forensic psychologist can play numerous roles in sentencing. In a legal case a forensic psychologist could be responsible for: assessing the mental condition of the defendant in regards to the insanity plea, acting as an expert witness, competency to stand trial evaluation, creating a violence and risk assessment, and/or analyzing a polygraph. All of these roles can influence the sentence the judge gives to the defendant. However the most important role a forensic psychologist can play in sentencing would be the creation of a sentencing evaluation. A sentencing evaluation can affect what would be considered a reasonable sentence. The forensic psychologist’s sentencing evaluation would include a risk assessment and treatment recommendations that can assist a judge in choosing the most reasonable sentence for the defendant. The judge would then use the forensic psychologist’s sentencing evaluation to assist him or her in deciding the sentence for the defendant. The evaluation could influence the judge to decide on a non-jail sentence or a longer/shorter sentence based on psychological factors.


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