Making Sense of Sentencing


381 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-7644-0
DDC 345.71'0772




Edited by Julian V. Roberts and David P. Cole
Reviewed by Christine Schmidt

Christine Schmidt specializes in law and sociology at Laurentian


Aboriginal groups in Canada have long held that aboriginals face blatant
racism and discrimination in Canada’s justice system. But that’s not
the whole picture, claims one contributor to Making Sense of Sentencing.
Using data from Correctional Services Canada as well as other academic
sources, this author highlights a pattern of aboriginal persons
receiving less prison time than their white counterparts for both
federal and provincial offences: “[t]his favourable treatment is
intended to compensate for the differential life chances and cultural
experiences of persons of native background.” Another provocative
finding presented in this well-researched book is that the public, when
given the task of simulated sentencing, is more lenient than the courts,
in spite of the public perception that the courts are too lenient in
their treatment of offenders.

Grounded in socio-legal theory, Making Sense of Sentencing is an
exhaustive and authoritative study of broad sentencing issues in Canada.
The book reviews the history of sentencing and reforms in Canada,
including various goals such as just deserts, deterrence, retribution,
and public safety; includes references to the parliamentary debates and
bills; introduces the reader to the major theoretical paradigms and
constructs used in penal sentencing in Canada; and discusses the plight
of marginalized groups such as the mentally ill, aboriginals, blacks,
women, and victims. Chapters include “Legislating Principle and
Purpose,” “Conditional Sentencing,” “Sentencing Options,”
“Sentencing Trends and Disparities,” “Sentencing and Early Release
of Offenders Convicted of Murder,” “American Trends in
Sentencing,” and “Sentencing Reform.”

Written by academics, the articles are supported by the latest
qualitative and quantitative research in the field, including lists of
additional readings, case law, statutes, and Web sites to facilitate
further research. This book is a must-read for practitioners, students,
professors, and anyone interested in justice in Canada.


“Making Sense of Sentencing,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 1, 2022,