"Prior to the Sentencing Reform Act, federal judges possessed almost unlimited authority to fashion an appropriate sentence within a broad statutorily prescribed range and 'decided [] the various goals of sentencing, the relevant aggravating and mitigating circumstances, and the way in which these factors would be combined in determining a specific sentence.'232 Sentences were limited only by statutory minimums and maximums. Because each judge was 'left to apply his own notions of the purposes of sentencing,' the federal sentencing system exhibited 'an unjustifiably wide range of sentences to offenders convicted of similar crimes.'233 Neither party had any meaningful right of appellate review. In addition, the parole system, which applied to only a portion of those sentenced and which permitted the release of prisoners based on inconsistent ideas regarding the potential for rehabilitation, exacerbated the lack of uniformity.234
"The Sentencing Reform Act, the culmination of lengthy bipartisan efforts, sought to eliminate unwarranted disparity in sentencing and to address the inequalities created by indeterminate sentencing.235 Congress determined that sentencing should be tailored:
"(A) to reflect the seriousness of the offense, to promote respect for the law, and to provide just punishment for the offense; (B) to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct; (C) to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant; and (D) to provide the defendant with needed educational or vocational training, medical care or other correctional treatment in the most effective manner.236
"To this end, the Sentencing Reform Act created the Commission as an independent agency within the judicial branch of the federal government237 and directed it to promulgate guidelines that were required to be used for sentencing within the prescribed statutory maximum.238"


"Report to Congress: Mandatory Minimum Penalties in the Federal Criminal Justice System" (Washington, DC: US Sentencing Commission, October 2011), pp. 37-38.