Disparate charging and sentencing refer to the use of different treatments for offenders with similar offenses. This has been common in many countries across the world because categorization of offenders has been a challenging task. The philosophical differences of judges affect the sentences imposed (Cole & Smith, 2008). Research has shown that some judges are consistently more lenient or more severe than their colleagues (Cole & Smith, 2008). Therefore, charging and sentencing vary significantly, which depend on the sentencing philosophy of the judge. Other factors that may lead to disparate charging and sentencing include the gender, racial, and ethnic differences of the offenders (Cole & Smith, 2008). The guidelines for charging and sentencing offenders serve as the most significant strategy against disparate charging and sentencing.
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Guidelines that determine criminal charging and sentencing have changed the manner in which judges pronounce sentences (Cole & Smith, 2008). Judges use mathematical formulae to calculate criminal sentences, which is a fair means to sentence offenders. Supporters of federal guidelines for sentencing believe that the guidelines are extremely effective in reducing charging and sentencing disparity. The guidelines ensure that federal felons, such as those people who sell illegal narcotics, receive harsh punishments. Without the guidelines, defendants will look for lenient judges and avoid those who will pronounce severe sentences (Cole & Smith, 2008). Therefore, disparate charging and sentencing will be common when the Criminal Justice System does not use a set of guidelines. Some people criticize the application of sentencing guidelines because they do not allow enough discretion to judges. However, the use of sentencing guidelines is the best alternative to address disparate charging and sentencing. For instance, the Minnesota guidelines have reduced disparity of sentencing by about 78 percent (Cole & Smith, 2008).
In conclusion, sentencing guidelines prove to be the best strategy for reducing disparate charging and sentencing in the contemporary courts. Judges may not be able to violate the guidelines and favor defendants. Therefore, charging and sentencing will not depend on the philosophical differences that exist between different judges (Cole & Smith, 2008). The Minnesota guidelines serve as a significant example that shows the effectiveness of sentencing guidelines in reducing charging and sentencing disparity.
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