U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee


Course: Introduction

The U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) is the agency responsible for the establishment of sentencing policies and procedures for the federal court system.

The United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) was established by the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 with the primary mission to establish sentencing policies and practices for the federal court system. The Commission is an independent agency in the judicial branch of the federal government, consisting of seven voting members appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

The USSC is responsible for developing sentencing guidelines that promote transparency, fairness, and consistency in sentencing. The guidelines are designed to provide a framework for judges to use in sentencing federal defendants, taking into account the severity of the offense, the defendant’s criminal history, and other relevant factors. The guidelines are developed based on extensive research, including empirical data on sentencing practices, and are regularly updated to reflect changes in the law and sentencing practices.

The United States Sentencing Commission also has the responsibility to monitor and evaluate the use and effectiveness of the guidelines. It collects data on sentencing practice outcomes to ensure that the guidelines are achieving their intended goals and to identify areas for improvement. The Commission also provides training and assistance to judges, lawyers, and other criminal justice professionals on the use of the guidelines.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission has been at the forefront of efforts to promote fairness and reduce disparities in sentencing. In the past, there were concerns that sentencing disparities existed among different judges and regions of the country, leading to unequal treatment of defendants. The USSC addressed this issue by developing sentencing guidelines that seek to eliminate these disparities and promote consistency in sentencing.

While the guidelines are advisory, most federal judges use them as a starting point in determining a sentence. However, judges may depart from the guidelines in certain circumstances, such as when the defendant has provided substantial assistance to the government in the prosecution of other cases or when there are mitigating factors that warrant a lesser sentence.

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Last Modified: 04/07/2023


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