The Federal Sentencing Guidelines and Compliance
Historically, judges were given great discretion in setting the sentences for crimes. This lead to great disparities among sentences for the same crimes, with some judges giving life sentences in situations where others would give short prison terms. There also seemed to be a bias against the poor and minorities. As a result, Congress passed a law establishing the U.S. Sentencing Commission. The liberal supporters of the bill hoped that it would reduce the harsh sentences given by some judges and would reduce the disparity between sentences for street crime and white- collar crime. The resulting Sentencing Guidelines did reduce the disparities, but tended to raise shorter sentences, rather than lower high ones.