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Sentencing, rationality, and computer-technology

Hutton, N. (1995) Sentencing, rationality, and computer-technology. Journal of Law and Society, 22 (4). pp. 549-570. ISSN 0263-323X

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Abstract

A number of jurisdictions have recently begun to employ computer technology to provide support for sentencers. This essay reviews these projects and discusses how the use of computers fits into our understanding of sentencing as a decision-making process. While most work on sentencing has been written from a moral philosophical or legal perspective,' this essay examines sentenc- ing2 from a sociological perspective. In order to address the possible impact of computer technology on sentencing, it is necessary to examine sentencing as a decision-making process carried out by social actors in a social setting. There has been very little research in this area. Important empirical studies3 have tried to explain how social psychological factors influence sentencers' decisions. There is also a tradition which identifies disparity in sentencing4 but this work does not explain how disparity is produced by the social practice of sentencing. This essay seeks to map out some more general concepts which help understand sentencing as a social process.