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Reforming Sentencing and Corrections for Just Punishment and Public Safety, Research in Brief

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 1999
12 pages
Publication Series

This analysis of sentencing and corrections policies concludes that public safety would be improved by major restructuring of penal and corrections law, correctional strategies, and penal measures and uses Wisconsin as an example of the development of a new framework for managing correctional resources.


The discussion focuses on the concepts of rule-of-law sentencing, the shifts required in correctional agencies under rule-of-law sentencing, and the changes in managing correctional resources in a Milwaukee neighborhood as a result of the efforts of the Wisconsin Governor's Task Force on Sentencing and Corrections. The discussion defines public safety as the degree to which people and property are free from the threat of harm in particular places and at particular times. Creating public safety requires the involvement of parents, neighbors, schools, churches, athletic teams, community service groups, and the labor market; it rarely requires the involvement of criminal justice personnel. Public safety also requires imposing penal measures on convicted offenders, but it cannot be achieved by that means. Among the principles that should guide corrections agencies that embrace a public safety mission are that the nature and degree of supervision of an offender should be directly related to the risk of harm the offender poses if unsupervised and that corrections agencies should not adopt strategies and programs that conflict with naturally occurring forces of social control that can be found in every neighborhood. The Wisconsin experience demonstrates how public safety would be advanced by fundamental amendments in the mission and methods of a correctional agency and that it is possible to specify the redeployment of authority and resources required for such a change. Chart, message from the NIJ Director, members of the Executive Sessions on Sentencing and Corrections, and 7 reference notes

Date Published: September 1, 1999