Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Thesis


Criminal justice, Administration of, Sentences (Criminal justice)


Recently, a growing number of states have enacted truth-in-sentencing policies which will ensure that certain violent offenders serve at least 85% of their sentence. These policies are designed as a general deterrent to crime by placing an offender behind bars without the chance of parole. Theoretically by increasing the incarceration rate, "the effects of incapacitation will grow because fewer offenders will be free to victimize the population at large" (Parent, Dunworth, McDonald, & Rhodes, 1997, p.l). Although, truth-in-sentencing policies may sound practical, there is growing debate as to the systemic impact that truth-in-sentencing laws will have on correctional systems.

This project examines the systemic impact and consequences associated with truth-in-sentencing legislation. Data was collected on each state's current inmate population, and 5-year prison population forecasts. Previously, studies have only been able to make impact projections based on the assumption that each state will pass truth-in-sentencing laws. This study addresses this limitation by comparing two groups: (1) states that have met the requirements in order to be awarded the FY 1996 Federal Truth-in-Sentencing Grant (see Appendix B); and, (2) states that were not awarded the grant. Additionally, each state adopting truth-in-sentencing was asked to provide the most recent count of inmates serving sentences under truth-in-sentencing laws, as well as to respond to a national mailed survey (see instrument in Appendix D).

The results indicated the following: (1) no significant statistical difference between the 5-year projected prison populations of those states that received the FY 96 Federal Truth-in-Sentencing Grant and states that did not; (2) a significant difference within groups projected populations and the number of inmates actually serving sentences under truth-in-sentencing laws; and (3) a variety of consequences associated with truth-in-sentencing legislation.

The findings of this study support the hypothesis that truth-in-sentencing legislation may not have an immediate direct systemic impact. Rather, the impact will be felt overtime as a sub-population of violent inmates serving 85% of their sentences will increase, slowing population turnover for this group and effecting prison growth in the future. The results of this study reveal shortcomings and additional questions raising the need for further examination into the systemic impact of truth-insentencing policies.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology

First Advisor

Robert Hunter, Chair


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Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (v, 70 leaves ; 28 cm)



File Format


Included in

Criminology Commons