Guidelines Simplification Draft Reports

Working Group Purpose Statement. (November 1996) This simplification project’s purpose statement describes the need for a comprehensive review of the guidelines. The review’s objective is twofold: (1) to reduce the complexity of guideline application; and (2) to improve federal sentencing by working closely with the judiciary and others to refine the guidelines.

Sentencing Reform Act. (November 1996) This staff discussion paper provides an overview of the principal purposes and features of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 (SRA). The principal SRA provisions that shape and constrain drafting of the sentencing guidelines are described, including the constraints of the “25 percent rule.” The paper enumerates congressional directives enacted subsequent to the SRA that further limit Commission amendment discretion and exert Congress’s direct influence over the levels of severity and specificity reflected in the guidelines for many offenses.

Departures and Offender Characteristics. (November 1996) This staff discussion paper analyzes departures and offender characteristics under the guidelines and includes a discussion of pertinent sections of applicable statutory directives and their legislative history, and a review of empirical information on current departure practice and appellate review standards.

Chapter 3 Adjustments. (November 1996) This staff discussion paper examines the major policy issues in Chapter Three of the Guidelines Manual (except for “Part D - Multiple Counts” which is the topic of a separate report) by reviewing data, case law, hotline calls, training experiences, and pertinent literature. The aim of this paper is to explain why Chapter Three includes certain adjustments and how the adjustments are working.

Relevant Conduct. (November 1996) This staff discussion paper examines the tension between real-offense and charge- offense sentencing and the Commission’s response to it: the relevant conduct guideline. The paper discusses the federal criminal code and the ways in which the code and the Sentencing Reform Act eliminate the possibility of a pure offense of conviction sentencing system. Finally, the paper outlines broad options to address these issues.

Chapter 2 Level of Detail. (November 1996) This paper focuses on the 151 offense guidelines in Chapter Two of the Guidelines Manual. The paper discusses the choices the Commission made about: the factors important to sentencing; the assignment of a specific weight to a base offense level or a specific offense characteristic (SOC); cross reference determinations; and departure decisions.

Chapter 4 Criminal History. (November 1996) This staff discussion paper has three components: (1) policy issues regarding the ability of the current criminal history score to adequately distinguish between offenders; (2) an outline of several issues that create guideline application problems; and (3) alternative criminal history measures that may improve the current guidelines.

Multiple Counts. (November 1996) This staff discussion paper reviews the guidelines’ multiple count rules (Chapter Three, Part D). The paper presents information from a year’s worth of hotline calls that dealt with multiple count application. Information on judicial interpretation was obtained from appellate case law on multiple count issues.

Sentencing Options Under the Guidelines. (November 1996) The Sentencing Options Working Group examined the various alternatives to imprisonment that are possible under the guidelines. This paper analyzes: (1) statutory directives regarding alternatives, (2) ways in which the guidelines define and allocate sentencing options, (3) criticisms of the existing approach, (4) guideline complexity, (5) judicial use of existing options, (6) factors that account for use or non-use of alternatives, and (7) evaluations of the effectiveness of particular alternatives.