Source: (2003) The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology. 36(3): 249-271.Sweeping changes have recently been made to punishment practices in many western nations. A number of these have reflected punitive, penal populism. The purpose of this essay is to examine recent reforms in New Zealand which reflect a philosophy of 'bifurcation' with respect to the punishment of offenders. Harsher treatment is introduced with respect to the punishment of offenders. Harsher treatment is introduced with respect to the more serious forms of offending, while at the same time other elements of Sentencing Act represent a more rational and moderate approach to sentencing reform. The Sentencing Act 2002 introduces a number of changes to the sentencing process in New Zealand. This article reviews some of the more important elements of the Act, beginning with the legislated statement of purpose and principles of sentencing. The statutory purposes include the goals of rehabilitation, deterrence and incapacitation that have been cited in similar statements in other jurisdictions. The author explores the significance of various components of the Sentencing Act in light of the experience in other jurisdictions such as Canada and England and Wales. In a number of areas the New Zealand statute offers a superior alternative to statutory language adopted in other countries. (author's abstract).