The Influences of Truth-in-Sentencing Reforms on Changes in States' Sentencing Practices and Prison Populations

Research Report

The Influences of Truth-in-Sentencing Reforms on Changes in States' Sentencing Practices and Prison Populations

Abstract

Truth in sentencing (TIS) refers to a variety of policies aimed at reducing the difference between sentences imposed and the actual time offenders serve in prison. Federal TIS initiatives within the 1994 Crime Act were found to have a relatively minor influence on the states: thirty states did not change their existing TIS laws, and eleven states made modest changes. The more extensive reforms made in the remaining states were often related to ongoing reform processes rather than the federal initiative. Examining the influence of state TIS policies on prison populations, this study found no uniform effect of TIS, but rather concludes that impacts should be evaluated within a state-specific context. Results from seven states -- Georgia, Washington, Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Utah -- varied because of differences in sentencing structure, other concurrent reforms, and declines in violent crime.

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