Washington State's sentencing reform in the early 1980s encompassed all felonies, including those resulting in sentences to prison and jail; the state also enacted the first and only sentencing guidelines for juvenile offenders. Several lessons are suggested from Washington's experience: sentencing guidelines can change sentencing patterns and can reduce disparities among offenders who are sentenced for similar crimes and have similar criminal histories; a sentencing commission does not operate as an independent political force, except when such delegation serves the legislature's purpose; guidelines are policy-neutral technologies that can be harnessed to achieve the legislature's will; in states where citizen initiatives are authorized, sentencing issues will appear on the ballot, attract political support, and make significant changes to sentencing policy; guidelines allow a state to set sentences with advance knowledge of the consequences to prison and jail populations; guidelines are likely to become more complex over time as legislators strive to respond to new perceptions of crime seriousness, while simultaneously paying attention to prison and jail costs.
David Boerner and Roxanne Lieb,
Sentencing Reform in the Other Washington, 28 CRIME & JUST. 71