Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice

Massachusetts Sentencing Commission Revises 1996 Advisory Sentencing Guidelines

On November, 9th, 2017, the Massachusetts Sentencing Commission published a revised set of advisory sentencing guidelines, updated from the original advisory sentencing guidelines of 1996.

The chair of the Massachusetts Sentencing Commission is the Honorable John T. Lu, Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court. Judge Lu is also an advisory member of the Robina Institute's Probation Revocation Project Advisory Board.

The MA Sentencing Commission distinguishes what "advisory sentencing guidelines" mean in this context: "In making these Sentencing Guidelines advisory, rather than voluntary, the Commission intends to provide a starting point for consideration, and not a constraint on judicial discretion in fashioning an appropriate sentence. We acknowledge that we have made judgment calls throughout these Guidelines, both in classifying offenses and in setting forth the various sentencing ranges we believe most appropriate, from which to begin consideration of a proper sentence in the specific facts and circumstances of each case. We appreciate that social science, medical science and correctional methodologies will continue to develop, and we acknowledge that what seems most effective today may not appear to be so tomorrow or in the years hence."

In sharing the news of the new guidelines with the Robina Institute, Judge Lu wrote:

"Since 2014, the Massachusetts Sentencing Commission has been overhauling its sentencing guidelines. This complex and difficult task has been assisted by the go-to expertise and technical assistance of the Robina Institute's Executive Director Kelly Mitchell and Co-Directors Professor Richard Frase and Professor Kevin Reitz, each of whom participated in numerous telephone calls and conferences, or testified by videoconference or in person to the commission, along with participation of commission members in an onsite conference at the University on the treatment of criminal history in guideline systems. After three years of hard work the commission has promulgated the new guidelines, the first in 21 years. In a story in the Massachusetts legal newspaper, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, a commission member noted that he was surprised to learn in a visit to Robina, that Massachusetts had the harshest criminal history provision in the U.S. The new guidelines ameliorate this deficiency while still protecting public safety. We thank the Robina Institute and the University of Minnesota Law School."

Congratulations to the Massachusetts Sentencing Commission on a successful update of their advisory sentencing guidelines.

Download or read the revised sentencing guidelines.