Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought
Criminal law in the United States experienced radical change during the course of the twentieth century. The dawn of the century ushered in an era of individualization of punishment. Drawing on the new science of positive criminology, legal scholars called for diagnosis of the causes of delinquency and for imposition of individualized courses of remedial treatment specifically adapted to these diagnoses. States gradually developed indeterminate sentencing schemes that gave corrections administrators and parole boards wide discretion over treatment and release decisions, and by 1970 every state in the country and the federal government had adopted a system of indeterminate sentencing. At the close of the century, the contrast could hardly have been greater. Practically every state had repudiated in some way indeterminate sentencing and imposed significant, in some cases complete, constraints on the discretion of sentencing judges and parole boards. In many states, parole boards were simply abolished. The period was marked by a new era of uniformity and consistency in sentencing.
From the Ne'er-Do-Well to the Criminal History Category: The Refinement of the Actuarial Model in Criminal Law,
Law & Contemp. Probs.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/faculty_scholarship/645