District of Columbia Sentencing Commission

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Director's Welcome

Thank you for your interest in criminal sentencing policy, and welcome to the District of Columbia Sentencing Commission website. The Commission was originally established as the Advisory Commission on Sentencing in 1998 to make policy recommendations to the Council of the District of Columbia in the area of criminal sentencing and corrections policy. It is composed of twenty members and includes representatives from the judiciary, the Council, prosecution and defense bar, victim assistance, criminal justice academia, offender supervision and correctional agencies, and non-lawyer citizens. Over more than a four-year period, the Commission studied sentencing policies and practices in other states, as well as historical sentencing data in the District, to develop its recommendations.

In pursuit of our mission, the Commission, in its Annual Report to the Council of the District of Columbia, recommends a system of voluntary sentencing guidelines for the Superior Court, to be implemented at the outset as a pilot program of approximately two years duration beginning in 2004. The recommendation is premised on a simple axiom: Basic fairness requires that similarly situated offenders should receive similar sentences for similar crimes.

The Commission recommends a system of voluntary guidelines with relatively wide ranges in recommended prison sentence lengths and the ability to depart, upward and downward, for extraordinary cases based upon aggravating and mitigating factors. The proposed sentencing grids (one for drug offenses and one for all other felonies) were developed to reflect prevailing practice for cases with similar offense seriousness and offenders with a similar criminal history. The guideline recommendations are consistent with the middle 50 percent of historical sentences, and the proposal attempts to move more sentences toward the historical center, without creating a guidelines system that results in more - or less - time served for the average offender in the average case.

Through the activities described in this site, the Commission seeks to add clarity and openness to the process of judicial decision-making for victims, offenders, criminal justice practitioners, and the general public.


Linden Fry
Executive Director