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Ron Wright testifies at United States Sentencing Commission hearings

Wake Forest University School of Law Executive Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Ron Wright testified earlier this month at a regional hearing of the United States Sentencing Commission in Atlanta.

The regional hearings coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. The Commission is holding public hearings to gather feedback on federal sentencing practices and the operation of the federal sentencing guidelines.

“In recognition of the anniversary, the Commission decided to go out on a listening tour to find out what still works in the Act and what potentially needs to be changed,” Wright said.

The first in a series of regional public hearings on federal sentencing policy was held Feb. 10-11 in Atlanta. Testimony was heard from appellate judges, federal court judges, members of law enforcement and academics, among others. Wright was a member of a panel that included two other academics who testified in front of seven commissioners.

“My take-home message was that they need to devote less attention to monitoring judges and trying to get them to comply with the guidelines,” Wright said. “They need to trust the judges. They will comply, they always do.”

Wright is one of the nation’s best known criminal justice scholars. He is the co-author of two casebooks in criminal procedure and sentencing; his empirical research concentrates on the work of criminal prosecutors.

The SRA established the Commission as an independent agency in the judicial branch of government and directed it to establish sentencing policies and practices for the federal criminal justice system, principally through the promulgation of federal sentencing guidelines. The Commission submitted the initial set of sentencing guidelines to Congress in April 1987. Since that time, the guidelines have been amended more than 700 times and they have been used by federal courts to sentence more than 1 million defendants.