Sentencing Transparency in the Information Age

October 22, 2003 by Katja Franko Aas

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How unrestricted or restricted should judges be when deciding a sentence? To what extent should sentences be predetermined, or to what extent should judges be left with the right to decide a sentence in each individual case? Some legal systems, most notably in the United States, have chosen sentencing guidelines to control judicial discretion. However, another approach has been to use computer technology in the form of so‐called sentencing information systems (SIS). This article examines these developments and what possible influence they have had and could have in the Scandinavian, particularly in the Norwegian, context. Penal institutions today are adjusting to the demands of the information society. Does and could the fact that we are living in an increasingly technologically mediated world influence judicial decision‐making? The article argues that the use of technology is not simply a question of technological change, but is first and foremost a social and political phenomenon, related to the relations of trust in a society.