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Differences in National Sentencing Systems and the Differences They Make
Crime and Justice  (IF4.474),  Pub Date : 2016-08-01, DOI: 10.1086/688454
Michael Tonry

Structural differences in sentencing systems and normative differences in the nature and influence of prevailing conceptions of justice make huge differences in patterns and practices in Western countries. In most, the views of elected politicians, the media, and the general public are believed to be irrelevant to sentencing decisions; prosecutors are politically insulated career civil servants and do not engage in plea negotiations concerning sentencing or that constrain judges’ choices; judicial fact finding is required in every case involving a conviction; imprisonment is believed to be harmful and to be used only as a last resort; community punishments are widely used in lieu of imprisonment; laws mandating specific punishments for specific crimes do not exist; and proportionality is believed by officials and scholars to be the fundamental requirement of punitive justice. The United States, usually the only one, is the outlier on each of the characteristics.