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Sentencing Guidelines: Considerations and Cautions

Considerations and Cautions

Table of Contents

Disparate Racial, Ethnic, and Socioeconomic Impact

The reader is cautioned that the American and Massachusetts criminal justice systems have been criticized for significant disparate racial, ethnic and socioeconomic impact. For example, observers posit that there is significant unexplained disparate impact of incarceration, probation, and fines and fees on Hispanic and African-American individuals as well as the poor.

Judges and sentencing counsel should monitor both continuing research and their own practices, and seek to understand and eliminate any unwarranted disparities.

Application of the Guidelines to Juveniles and Emerging Adults

Under some circumstances, juvenile delinquency findings may be considered in sentencing adults. However, the sentencing guidelines are not intended to provide significant guidance for the sentencing of juveniles in the juvenile court system.

Some aspects of the sentencing of emerging adults, individuals up to and including age 21, should be considered when sentencing such individuals even if the individuals are subject to the jurisdiction of adult court.

Research on adolescent brain development indicates a possible concern that emerging adults are (a) less able than adults to control impulses through reason; (b) disposed to overvalue short-term benefits as compared to long-term consequences; and (c) are immensely susceptible to negative peer influences.

The court may consider research which shows that adolescents develop over time and may pose less of a public safety risk as they become less impulsive and more capable of making considered decisions. Such individuals may be effectively monitored through community supervision.

The court may wish to consider whether the individual has suffered trauma, the effect trauma has had on the individual and his/her behavior, and whether there are steps that may be taken to address the trauma.

The court may consider that emerging adults may be more likely to achieve a favorable outcome if diverted out of the criminal justice system.

These issues are subject to additional research and await further development.

Contact   for Sentencing Guidelines: Considerations and Cautions


John Adams Courthouse, One Pemberton Square - G300, Boston, MA 02108
Date published: April 26, 2019

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