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Nothing Works: Sentencing Reform in Canada and the United States

NCJ Number
Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice Volume: 55 Issue: 4 Dated: October 2013 Pages: 465-479
Michael Tonry
Date Published
October 2013
15 pages
This paper examines the need for sentencing reform in both Canada and the United States.
Anthony Doob has documented the evolution of knowledge about sentencing and sentencing policy in Canada since the 1970s, and the social, attitudinal, and psychological forces that influenced them. Except for the enactment, in 1996, of a statute specifying general purposes of sentencing and the enactment of mandatory minimum sentencing laws of limited scope, not much has happened in Canada. By contrast, enormous numbers of changes in law, policy, and practice have occurred in the United States, with mostly negative effects in terms of diminution of justice, crowded prisons, unprecedented imprisonment rates, and worsened racial disparities. Americans would have benefited from something like Canadian inertia. Canadians have little that is positive and much that is negative to learn from the American sentencing reform experience. (Published Abstract)