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The Guidelines Evaluation Study

Background: The DC Voluntary Sentencing Guidelines were first piloted by the DC Sentencing Commission in 2004, and were fully implemented in 2006. After more than ten years of felony sentencing under the Guidelines, the Commission undertook a comprehensive evaluation of the Guidelines to analyze how effectively the Guidelines are operating and to identify any areas where improvement may be needed.

The Evaluation Report determined that the Guidelines are operating as intended.

  • More than 92% of sentences imposed complied with the type and length of sentence recommended under the Guidelines.
  • Offenders with extensive criminal records and those who have committed serious and violent crimes are predominately sentenced to prison.
  • Judges are frequently giving suspended prison terms and probation for non-violent, low risk offenders, who are viewed as good candidates for rehabilitation.
  • Since the implementation of the Guidelines, criminal history has had a significant effect on the type and length of sentence imposed.

The Guidelines provide certainty, consistency, and adequacy of punishment.

  • As the severity of the offense increases, the likelihood of receiving a prison sentence increases.
  • Individuals with similar criminal histories receive similar sentences when sentenced for the same offense.
  • In 97.8% of cases where the Guidelines recommend a term of incarceration, a prison sentence is imposed.
  • There was no significant change in the likelihood of receiving a prison sentence following the enactment of the Guidelines.
  • On average, the prison sentences under the Guidelines are 18 % shorter than before the implementation of the Guidelines.
  • Generally, the demographics of individuals sentenced have not changed since the implementation of the Guidelines.