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2018 Focus Group Report

In April 2018, The Moss Group (TMG) submitted a proposal in response to the District of Columbia Sentencing Commission’s (the Commission) Statement of Work seeking professional consulting services to develop and moderate a series of focus groups with members of primary user groups of the Voluntary D.C. Sentencing Guidelines (the Guidelines): the Judiciary, United States Attorney’s Office (USAO), Public Defender Service (PDS), Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA), and Criminal Justice Act (CJA) Attorneys (collectively, "the agencies"). The focus of this project was to determine how the agencies perceive the Guidelines in terms of their structure and application, and to develop a report identifying components of the Guidelines’ structure and application that may warrant further evaluation by the Commission.

Key findings from this project are described in detail in this report. To summarize the findings:

• Focus group participants were in general agreement that the Guidelines are achieving their goals of certainty, consistency, and adequacy of punishment.

• However, because of the breadth of the Guidelines ranges, there may be inconsistency in sentencing among Guidelines-compliant sentences.

• Participants made several suggestions for amending the Grids by adding boxes, and re-ranking certain offenses.

• All agency groups were interested in amending the criminal history scoring rules regarding misdemeanors, lapse and revival, and juvenile adjudications.

• Participants made suggestions for updating the lists of aggravating and mitigating factors.

• In terms of the guidance that the Commission provides, participants requested that the Commission offers: additional guidance in the form of training, a point-of-contact for Guidelines questions, and online resources.

Full Report Attached.

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