AbstractLast year, Blomberg,Mestre, andMann (2013) in Criminology & Public Policy called on criminologists to embolden themselves to offer the best empirical research to inform public policy discussions concerning criminal justice issues, even if their research cannot show causality. The main research article in this segment represents a wonderful example of such a contribution. Kaiser and Spohn’s (2014, this issue) research directly confronts an area of criminal justice in current turmoil because of doctrinal and moral policy disputes. The realm is the federal sentencing system. Created by Congress in the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, the U.S. Sentencing Commission was tasked with the responsibility of establishing presumptive sentencing guidelines to direct sentencing judges in determining a reasonable sentence. A goal of the reform legislation was to foster consistency in sentencing practices and thereby reduce unwarranted disparities. Yet the U.S. Supreme Court untethered the presumptive sentencing guideline regime in the case of United States v. Booker in 2005 when it remedied a constitutional error it found plagued the guideline structure by rendering the guideline system advisory in nature. Federal district judges were given further leeway when the Supreme Court in Kimbrough v. United States (2007) ruled the judiciary could reject guideline recommendations based on a policy disagreement. Tension has existed ever since these rulings in terms of a power struggle for determining reasonable punishments, spawning discussions and debates among researchers, academics, practitioners, and policy makers about how to repair the discord and, perhaps more importantly, meliorate policies...
Hamilton, Melissa (2014) Sentencing Policy Disputes (Editorial Introduction) Criminology & Public Policy, 13 (2). pp. 237-240.