Vanderbilt Law Review


Paul M. Stein

First Page



This note is based on the premise that a new understanding of the principles of sentencing has evolved during the past half-century. After articulating this thesis, one which has been more fully developed elsewhere, an assessment is made of the extent to which the more modern concepts of sentencing have been embodied in public policy as enunciated in statutes and court decisions, particularly decisions interpreting constitutional requirements. This examination reveals tha the existing rules and practices concerning imprisonment for fines and costs reflect uneasy compromises between competing policies and that these rules and practices are largely holdovers from an earlier time when both courts and legislatures proceeded on principles of sentencing quite different from those advocated by most contemporary penologists. A scattering of statutes and decisions, however, indicate that significant changes are beginning to take place, changes consistent with contemporary sentencing theory. Perhaps more important, it is submitted that developments in other areas of criminal procedure indicate that modern sentencing theory has an arguably important role in the extension of constitutional protections. The note concludes that the operative rules concerning imprisonment for fines and costs should be changed to reflect present day understanding of sentencing theory, that certain of these changes can be premised on constitutional mandates, and that others should be embodied in emendations of statutes and of the common law.