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California Determinate Sentence Law

NCJ Number
Criminal Law Bulletin Volume: 19 Issue: 5 Dated: (September/October 1983) Pages: 405-433
Date Published
29 pages
The California Determinate Sentence Law, implemented in 1977, markedly changed the State's sentencing practice.
From an indeterminate sentence system with exceptionally high maximum terms and extensive parole discretion, the new system gives control over sentencing and sentence length to courtroom participants, particularly the judge and prosecutor. The article explores the implementation of the law in three counties. The authors' research allows them to assess the effects of the new law on prison commitment rates and on the rate and timing of guilty pleas, and its integration into the plea-bargaining process. Although short-term comparison of before and after periods has often taken as evidence that the new law has had substantial impact, this assessment of the evidence suggests that if longer periods are taken into account, it is not clear that the new sentencing law has caused substantial change in sentencing patterns of disposition processes. This article will be especially interesting to those in the public policy arena and to lawyers who are undecided about the relative merits and demerits of a California-type approach to sentence reform. (Publisher abstract)

Date Published: January 1, 1983