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Criminal Justice Trends: Key Legislative Changes in Sentencing Policy, 2001-2010

NCJ Number
Adrienne Austin
Date Published
September 2010
20 pages
This report presents key legislative changes in sentencing policy for the period 2001 through 2010.
Three key themes emerged from the research: States have redefined and reclassified criminal offenses, often resulting in a reduction in offense severity and sentence length; States have strengthened alternatives to incarceration, with an emphasis on increasing investment in substance use treatment, specialty courts, and community supervision; and States have taken steps to reduce prison terms, from rolling back mandatory minimum sentences to enhancing mechanisms designed to accelerate sentence completion. The report provides details on the changes made in the States regarding each of these themes. The first section looks at changes made by States regarding criminal codes, drug crimes, and property crimes. The second section discusses alternatives to incarceration that have been implemented by the States. These alternatives include enhancing substance abuse treatment, establishing performance incentive funding, mandating evidence-based supervision, and expanding court-monitored treatment. The third section of the report looks at efforts by States to reduce prison terms. These efforts include relaxing mandatory minimum laws, expanding discharge options, and shortening sentence length. Each section lists the States where laws have been changed, a description of the law and how it was changed, and the laws number and the year it was changed. 30 endnotes