By 1970s, however, both progressivism and populism lost their appeal as stand-alone policies (Vito & Allen, 1981). While progressives had failed to provide an alternative to indeterminate sentencing, populism was seen as something that negated the spirit of the law and it was declared that "Federal judges are not responsive to the pulsations of humanity." These themes dominated SRA for some time and culminated in the development of Federal sentencing Act of 1984 with one primary aim i.e. to be fair in the purposes of imprisonment.The US Congress played a slight and indirect role in federal sentencing for about a century or so by vesting into the sentencing judge an unbarred discretion to figure out the appropriate punishment from usually a diverse ambit of potential sentences as been described by law. This rendered the judge to be in total control of sentencing and it was up to the judge only to envisage various aspects of sentencing the relevant aggravating and mitigating circumstances and how these all factors jointly contributed to the commissioning of the sentence. The judicial sentences were virtually subject to no review on appeal. The underlying rationale of the whole exercise was based upon "coercive rehabilitation." That invariably involved judge deciding an extensive punishment of long duration and the parole board contemplating release on the grounds of adequate rehabilitation. That whole system relied heavily on the personal discretion of the judge without much accountability. This was naturally bound to criticism as with problems caused as a result of authority wielding undeterred personal discretion and seen largely as foot loose and fancy free scenario. Congress was acutely aware by 1970s of the growing unease among the general public and pervasive problems in the judicial system that were emanating due to the lack of well defined parameters in sentence commissioning. The disparity in the sentencing system lead to a thorough evaluation by Congress in 1984 in which it was known that the whole system was in the dire need of reform and had lost the necessary credibility required to sustain the public confidence to serve as a sufficient deterrent to crime. It was concluded in that study the inconsistency and disparity in the sentencing system was due to the inadequate sentencing application by the judiciary. Congress took initiative to redress the problem by enacting the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984.
The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 is also commonly stated as SRA; it drew a comprehensive outline for restructuring of judicial sentencing discretion that essentially changed altogether the sentencing in the federal justice system. The SRA's prime objective was to overcome the chasm of sentencing disparity. The first step that Congress took was to reject the prevalent view of rehabilitation as the foremost goal of sentencing. It redefined the objectivity of sentence as retributive, educational, and deterrent (Howell, 2004). By enacting SRA Congress sought to bring the whole judicial process above board ultimately helping it regain the trust of masses important to discourage crime, revitalizing the system by modifying its dynamics, curbing over dependence on imprisonment and upholding the dignity and discretion of judges faculty. The important points(USSC, 1991) of SRA could be summarized as follow:
1. There should be a clear and comprehensive statement of sentencing of federal law along with