Predicting Proportionality: The Case for Algorithmic Sentencing

Criminal Justice Ethics 37 (3):238-261 (2018)
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Abstract

A basic principle in sentencing offenders is proportionality. However, proportionality judgments are often left to the discretion of the judge, raising familiar concerns of arbitrariness and bias. This paper considers the case for systematizing judgments of proportionality in sentencing by means of an algorithm. The aim of such an algorithm would be to predict what a judge in that jurisdiction would regard as a proportionate sentence in a particular case. A predictive algorithm of this kind would not necessarily undermine justice in individual cases, is consistent with a particularistic account of moral judgment, and is attractive even in the face of uncertainty as to the legitimate purposes of punishment.

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