Rapid changes within the sentencing structures

The core values that support the existence of the justice system is pragmatism, liberty and fairness. There have been constant discussions, research and controversies in relation to the overall incarceration and justice system of the United States.  A research conducted by the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) department in 2010 with regards to the sentencing structure holds that some of the key factors that affect sentencing are racial background, prior record, exclusionary rule and increase in the number of homicide cases in the United States of America within the last decades. This paper expounds on these factors that have led to rapid changes within the sentencing structures and some of the changes that exist. Given that justice should be fair and equal to every citizen of the US, this research paper is in line with what happens within the system and how it affects the well-being of the people. Some of the major factors that led to the rapid changes within the sentencing structures of United States of America is the eradication of racism in the justice system, exclusionary rule which ensures the best treatment of the defendant with reference to the constitutional requirements and effects of the previous criminal records on the sentencing period if the defendant is guilty.

Today, about 2 million Americans are incarcerated within local prisons; this is a five hundred per cent increase within the last forty years (Ulmer, 2019). Despite the large numbers, there is an extensive imbalance in terms of the racial groups because the African Americans and Latinos account for sixty per cent of the total number of inmates. Evidently, racism and inequality is a factor that has led to changes in the sentence structure with the aim of achieving equality for everyone. Since the latter decades of the 20th century, the main objective of the correctional system is rehabilitation for various offenders. As a result, the judges are empowered with the ability to tailor sentences with regards to the offenders’ specific needs or circumstances (Ulmer, 2019). Therefore, this change ensures that an offender faces judgment with regards to its nature and not their racial background. In conclusion, if this practice is carried out successfully all over the nation then equality and fairness are attainable to every citizen.

Another major factor that has led to a change in the sentencing structure is the exclusionary rule. Specifically, it is this rule that prevents the judicial system or the government from using evidence that is gathered from the offender in violation of their rights and constitution (Ulmer, 2019). Before this law was in place, law enforcement officers would forcefully conduct seizures or searches to an extent of the defendants’ privacy violation. Today, sentencing can be reduced if the court determines that the evidence presented against the defendant was attained without a legal search warrant. However, evidence that is initially obtained unlawfully could be admissible if it is accessed through a constitutionally valid manner. Every defendant is always innocent until proven guilty; therefore, the exclusionary rule ensures that the rights of the defendants are considered despite the type of case or background of the offender (Ulmer, 2019). In most cases, the exclusionary law is the defendants’ remedy especially when the police officers conduct an unauthorized search.

The last crucial factor that affects sentencing today is the defendant’s prior criminal record. History of crime plays a key role when considering sentencing in all jurisdictions (Ulmer, 2019). Statutory enhancements for repetitive offences exist in the United States and there are harsher convictions for the recidivists. Various advocates responsible for the development of the constitution explain that over fifty per cent of the recidivists is likely to repeat a crime or offend someone else again. Consequently, longer sentencing is always an option for offenders with a greater likelihood to commit another offence. On the contrary, defendants with minimal or zero prior records will face limited time if they have to be convicted for their offences. Besides, most researchers and theorists support limited sentencing for first-time offenders. Despite the United States attaching importance to prior criminal information; there is an extensive diversity in the manner in which different systems define and minimize the use of previous criminal records.

In conclusion, some of the major factors that led to the rapid changes within the sentencing structures of United States of America is the eradication of unfairness and inequality that result from judgment based on racial backgrounds, exclusionary rule which ensures the best treatment of the defendant with reference to the constitutional requirements and effects of the previous criminal records on the sentencing period if the defendant is guilty. The justice system entails classification of set rules and regulations that are supposed to benefit every citizen equally. Over the decades there have been constant discussions, research and amendments in relation to the overall state of incarceration and the justice system in the United States. Some of the factors affecting sentencing favour some citizens while others indicate favouritism; for that reason, the government in conjunction with various responsible organizations should coordinate to ensure equality, fairness and appropriate action against offenders within the United States.


Ulmer, J. T. (2019). Criminal Courts as Inhabited Institutions: Making Sense of Difference and Similarity in Sentencing. Crime and Justice48(1), 000-000.

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