Volume 57

Women and Sentencing

by Judge Nancy Gertner

In the spring of 2019, I gave the keynote speech at Georgetown Law for the American Criminal Law Review’s symposium on Women’s Rights in the Criminal Justice System. As highlighted throughout this Symposium Issue, speakers dis-cussed some of the seemingly endless ways the criminal justice system dispa-rately impacts women. The issue that stood out to me most during my time on the bench was the unfair and often illogical impact the now-advisory Sentencing Guidelines impose on women. As I write below, it is far past time for the Sentencing Commission and Congress to recognize that disparity in sentencing may not be unwarranted at all when it comes to male and female offenders. In fact, it may be critical to reflect the real differences between them—the drivers of their criminality, the triggers for their recidivism, and the mechanisms for their rehabilitation. But sentencing is not the only place in which there must be change. This Symposium Issue sets out to address many of the other issues that lead to inequality at nearly every stage of the criminal process. 

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