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The Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines

Frase, Richard S.
June 4, 2015

Source: (2008) In Arie Freiberg and Karen Gelb, Eds., Penal Populism, Sentencing Councils and Sentencing Policy. Cullompton, Devon UK: Willan Publishing. Pp. 83-102

Legislature and the Guidelines Commission in Minnesota have taken steps to ensure that the public is informed of the Commission’s work and that public input and perspectives are taken into account. When the Commission was designing and implementing the original version of the Guidelines it adopted an open process, inviting public attendance at the Commission’s discussions and holding meetings in various locations around the state. (Excerpt)

The remainder of this chapter is organized as follows. The first part introduces the Minnesota Guidelines system by briefly describing the State’s political and social climate and the current scope and operation of the Guidelines and other sentencing laws. The second part summarizes the origins and evolution of the Minnesota Guidelines since passage of the enabling legislation in 1978, drawing attention to the ways in which public opinion and participation have occasionally shaped the design and modification of sentencing policy formulation in recent years, and the ways in which the Commission publicises its work. Finally the fourth part analyses media reporting on the Guidelines and the Commission’s work in an effort to estimate, first, what the public knows or could know about these matters, and , secondly, what kinds of public concerns are reflected in these stories (and thus are known or knowable by the commission). One highly publicised recent case is presented as an example of how intense media attention is translated into legislated and Commission action, producing substantially changed State sentencing law and policy. The conclusion reflects on the balance Minnesota has struck between public versus professional and expert dominance of sentencing policy formulation. (Excerpt)


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