When the federal Sentencing Commission was created in the 1980s, the idea was to create Sentencing Guidelines that would restore uniformity to sentencing. The concern at the time was that similarly positioned defendants were receiving wildly varying sentences depending on which judge they appeared in front of, or depending on where in the country they were sentenced.
In 2005, the United States Supreme Court declared that the sentencing guidelines were not mandatory, but were merely advisory.
Now comes a new study which examines sentences handed down since 2005 and finds that disparities within sentences are appearing with regularity.
[D]efendants convicted in a drug trial in the Southern District of California got an average sentence of 17 years before Republican-appointed judges, compared with six years before Democratic counterparts. But a weapons conviction after trial in the Eastern District of Michigan resulted in an average sentence of 21 years before the Democratic-appointed judges and an average of less than 12 from the Republican ones.