Book Review: Sentencing and modern reform: The process of punishment

Published date01 September 2021
Date01 September 2021
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews
Book Reviews
Marciniak, L. M. (2016).
Sentencing and modern reform: The process of punishment. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, LLC. 485 pp.
$59, ISBN 9781611637229.
Reviewed by: Stephanie L. Kent, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, OH, USA
DOI: 10.1177/0734016817721290
The sentencing stage of the criminal justice system is crucial to understanding the state of criminal
justice in the United States. It represents a critical point for the offender who is moving through the
process, but more broadly, it is a representation of our society’s view of punishment at any particular
point in time. This book aims to address both of these issues through a comprehensive description of
sentencing practices and processes across the United States and over the last few decades, which are
understood to be the era of “modern sentencing.” Marciniak is clearly an expert on state differences
in sentencing and produces a reference book that I am happy to own and use both in the classroom
and to inform my own research.
The book contains 11 chapters, beginning with an essential chapter that lays out the important
terminology used throughout, including the general philosophies or types of sentencing (determi-
nate, indeterminate, commission based, mandatory minimum, and three strikes), and the goals of
corrections (deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation). This chapter in itself provides the reader
with a thorough introduction to sentencing including information about the current prison population
and could be used independently as a required reading in a general interest criminal justice course.
The book then spends two chapters documenting the history of sentencing in the United States
and more recent sentencing reforms. Further chapters provide more detail on specific approaches to
sentencing, including commission-based sentencing, mandatory minimum/three-strikes sentencing,
and sentencing in the federal criminal justice system. The book continues with chapters that serve
distinct purposes. For example, one chapter covers important court cases that have shaped senten-
cing practices; one introduces questions about the ethical concerns with modern sentencing reforms;
one documents social science re search on sentencing reform; and one examines the impact of
sentencing reforms on crime, criminals, and society overall. The final chapter provides the most
up-to-date information about sentencing trends and approaches including a useful discussion on
public opinion.
Because the book is so comprehensive, I can see it being useful to a variety of readers. It would be
essential reading for a graduate student in crimina l justice or useful as a text for an advanced
undergraduate class on sentencing. But given Marciniak’s careful attention to detail, it is an essential
reference manual as well. Several of the chapters are useful as “stand-alone” material for particular
audiences. For example, the chapter on court cases would be amenable to prelaw or law students
interested in criminal law. The chapter on the fede ral sentencing could be part of the training
materials for those working in the federal system, and the chapter on social science research would
serve as a useful supplement to a research methods course. The chapter on ethical issues and
Criminal Justice Review
2021, Vol. 46(3) 382-395
ª2017 Georgia State University
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