Senate Bill 50, which became law in 1989, established the Kansas Sentencing Commission, and directed the Commission to: "Develop a sentencing guidelines model or grid based on fairness and equity and...provide a mechanism for linking justice and corrections policies. The sentencing guideline model or grid shall establish rational and consistent sentencing standards which reduce sentence disparity, to include, but not be limited to, racial and regional biases which may exist under current sentencing practices." (See L. 1989, Ch. 225, Sec. 1)
After it was fully formed and staffed by November, 1989, the Commission met semi-monthly in Topeka. The Commission decided early on to confine their activities to adult felony sentences. Further, the Commission identified a set of goals to be attained in developing a uniform sentencing guidelines system:
- To develop a set of guidelines that promote public safety by incarcerating violent offenders;
- To reduce sentence disparity to ensure the elimination of any racial, geographical or other bias that may exist;
- To establish sentences that are proportional to the seriousness of the offense and the degree of injury to the victim;
- To establish a range of easy to understand presumptive sentences that will promote "truth in sentencing";
- To provide state and local correctional authorities with information to assist with population management options and program coordination;
- To provide policy makers information that will enhance decisions regarding resource allocations.
The Sentencing Commission considered a wide range of topics relevant to sentencing guidelines, reviewed information from other guidelines states (primarily Minnesota, Washington, Oregon and California), heard testimony from local and national criminal justice professionals, and visited several correctional facilities. In addition, the Commission conducted a comprehensive study of existing sentencing practices. The study documented a history of racial and geographical bias in sentencing, attributable to a system which, because it directed decision makers to consider socio-economic factors in sentencing, reflected general societal inequities.
The Sentencing Commission submitted its recommendations at the commencement of the 1991 legislative session, as was required under L. 1989, Ch. 225, Sec. 4. The Commission recommended a presumptive sentencing system, represented by sentencing grids for both non-drug and drug offenses, that provides an appropriate sentence for a crime based upon the crime of conviction and the individual's past criminal history. It further recommended that the sentencing court be allowed to depart from the presumptive sentence provided that the court explain on the record the reasons for a departure, and that a decision to depart be subject to appeal. The Commission recommended that statutory enactments and amendments to implement a sentencing guidelines system become effective on July 1, 1992.
The Commission's recommendations were first incorporated into Senate Bill 382, enacting a sentencing guidelines system. The bill was the subject of hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee during the 1991 legislative session. At the close of the session, Senate Bill 382 was retained in committee, and recommended for an interim study. Hearings on the bill were held before the Interim Special Committee on Judiciary in late 1991. Senate Bill 479 was a redraft of Senate Bill 382 to reflect the changes and recommendations of the 1991 interim Special Committee on Judiciary. Hearings on the new bill began in January, 1992. After much debate in the Senate and then the House of Representatives, the bill was referred to a conference committee, whose report was subsequently adopted by both chambers. The Governor signed Senate Bill 479 on May 11,1992.
Senate Bill 479 was reintroduced in the 1993 legislature as Senate Bill 423, which incorporated both the sentencing guidelines and the substantive changes to the criminal code correlating with the guidelines. Senate Bill 423 became law on July 1, 1993. L. 1993, Ch. 291. The Kansas Sentencing Guidelines Act is set forth in K.S.A. 21-4701 et seq.