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Managing Prison Growth in North Carolina Through Structured Sentencing

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 1998
16 pages
Publication Series
The North Carolina General Assembly and the State Sentencing and Policy Advisory Committee have worked together to design a sentencing structure that increases certainty and length of imprisonment for the most serious felonies and that creatively uses community and intermediate sanctions for lesser offenses to control corrections costs.
As an alternative to indeterminate sentencing, structured sentencing is a compromise between individualized assessment of each offender and uniform treatment of persons charged with an offense under legislatively mandated determinate sentencing. Structured sentencing creates a set of sentencing rules, usually called guidelines, that consider both the offense and personal characteristics of the offender. While general rules of a structured sentencing system make sentences more uniform and less subject to the individual discretion of judges and parole boards, such a system allows judges to impose different sentences in special cases. Structured sentencing makes it possible to plan correctional resources and minimize prison overcrowding. Structured sentencing in North Carolina has been accomplished using the following methods: (1) sentencing commission use of legislatively mandated impact statements to inform legislators of prison construction costs associated with amending sentencing statutes; (2) training in the use of sentencing guidelines for members of the criminal justice community; (3) cooperation between sentencing commission and criminal justice professionals; and (4) integration of budget requests of community corrections agencies into a unified budget. An evaluation is planned to assess the effects of structured sentencing. The development of sentencing guidelines in North Carolina between 1990 and 1993 and sentencing guideline changes in 1994 and 1995 legislative sessions are described. Lessons from North Carolina's experience with structured sentencing that may be applicable to other jurisdictions are discussed. 12 notes, 5 exhibits, and 3 photographs

Date Published: February 1, 1998