Sentencing Commission

Sentencing Commission in the United States

United States Sentencing Commission

The United States Sentencing Commission is an independent agency in the judicial branch of government. This Agency establishes sentencing policies and practices for the Federal courts. It produces reports to Congress, publications, Federal sentencing guidelines, and manual guidelines.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission is best known for writing the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. It also formulates anti-crime policies and published reports on crime-related issues.

The USSC posts the current Federal Sentencing Guidelines Manual, along with proposed changes. There is an Archive of Manuals from prior years going back to 1987.

U.s. States Sentencing Commissions

the States have their sentencing commissions. For example:

  • The Alabama Sentencing Commission works to establish and maintain an effective, fair, and efficient sentencing system for Alabama. It provides information on practices and procedures as well as access to related publications.
  • The Massachusetts Sentencing Commission was appointed by the Governor in 2014. It is chaired by Superior Court Judge Jack Lu
  • The Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission was established during the September 1994 Special Session of the Virginia General Assembly.
  • The Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing offers similar information.

Furthemore, the National Association of Sentencing Commissions (NASC) is a non-profit organization that was created to facilitate the exchange and sharing of information among the U.S. State´s Sentencing Commissions.


The United States Sentencing Commission was established as an independent agency in the judicial branch of the Federal Government by the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 (28 U.S.C. 991 et seq. and 18 U.S.C. 3551 et seq.). The Commission establishes sentencing guidelines and policies for the Federal courts, advising them of the appropriate form and severity of punishment for offenders convicted of Federal crimes.

The Commission comprises seven voting members and two nonvoting members. The President appoints the voting members with the advice and consent of the Senate for 6-year terms. The President also appoints one of the voting members as the Chair and designates three others as Vice Chairs.

The Commission evaluates the effects of the sentencing guidelines on the criminal justice system, advises Congress on the modification or enactment of statutes pertaining to criminal law and sentencing matters, establishes a research and development program on sentencing issues, and performs other related duties.

In executing its duties, the Commission promulgates and distributes to Federal courts and to the U.S. probation system guidelines for determining sentences to be imposed in criminal cases, general policy statements regarding the application of guidelines, and policy statements on the appropriate use of probation and supervised release revocation provisions. These sentencing guidelines and policy statements are intended to support the principles of just punishment, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation; provide fairness in meeting the purposes of sentencing; avoid unwarranted disparity; and reflect advancement in the knowledge of human behavior as it relates to the criminal justice process.

The Commission also provides training, conducts research on sentencing-related issues, and serves as an information resource for Congress, criminal justice practitioners, and the public.

United States Sentencing Commission and the Federal Courts

In the words of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts: The United States Sentencing Commission establishes sentencing guidelines for the federal criminal justice system. The Commission also monitors the performance of probation officers with regard to sentencing recommendations, and has established a research program that includes a clearinghouse and information center on federal sentencing practices. The Sentencing Commission consists of a chairman, three vice chairs, and three other voting commissioners who are appointed for six-year terms by the President.

See Also

Bureau of Justice Statistics
Crime Statistics
Criminal Law
Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Sentencing Commission: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Sentencing Commission. This part provides references, in relation to Sentencing Commission, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Sentencing Commission by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Sentencing Commission and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Sentencing Commission or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Sentencing Commission and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Sentencing Commission. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Sentencing Commission should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Sentencing Commission when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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