Of Fragmentation and Ferment: State Sentencing and Corrections Reforms, 1975-2002

Donald Stemen, The Vera Institute of Justice
James A. Wilson, Fordham University - Lincoln Center
Robert Hope, The Vera Institute of Justice

ABSTRACT
After 25 years, the fragmentation in sentencing and correctionhs policies across states has created a complex array of approaches to the use of imprisonment. Practitioners continue to lament the absence of a comprehensive survey of states' reforms. As a result, few understand the variability of sentencing systems in the U.S., the state-level changes in those systems, or the connections between policies and prison population growth.

The Vera Institute of Justice is conducting a comprehensive survey and evaluation of state-level sentencing and corrections reforms between 1975 and 2002. The objective is to build a conceptual framework for understanding the types and variability of state-level policies, to develop individual historical descriptions and analyses of each state's reforms, and to examine the ways in which various policies affect prison populations. A historical examination of reform allows for a critical evaluation of the reforms themselves and their impacts on prison populations within and across states. Findings would help policy makers understand the variety and ramifications of policies within and across other states, examine the impacts of past policy reforms within their own states, place their sentencing structures in a national context, and use the experiences of other states to guide decision making.

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Updated 05/20/2006