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Examining Washington State’s Sentencing Guidelines: A Report for the Criminal Sentencing Task Force

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Lauren Knoth - May 2021

The Washington State Criminal Sentencing Task Force (CSTF) was directed to review the state’s sentencing laws. To better understand the landscape of sentencing in Washington and the potential impacts of reforming the state’s sentencing laws, the CSTF contracted with WSIPP to examine felony sentencing in Washington State Superior Courts. This report is intended to provide analytic data to assist with future policy discussions within the CSTF.

Using data from the Caseload Forecast Council, this report reviews the outcomes from FY 2019 felony sentences. Specifically, the report examines how standard, non-drug sentences vary across the current offense seriousness level-based sentencing guideline grid. The report also examines how sentences may vary across an alternative, felony class-based guideline grid.

This report includes an examination of racial disproportionality in sentencing outcomes for standard sentences in the current and alternative guideline grids and for non-standard sentences including enhancements, exceptional sentences, and sentencing alternatives.

In general, the report found that average sentence lengths and incarceration rates may decrease under a class-based grid. However, racial disproportionality in sentencing outcomes was present under both grid systems. The magnitude of racial disproportionality varied for different types of offenses and for different types of sentences.

Report ID: 21-05-1901
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