“Felicity Huffman sentenced to 14 days in prison in nationwide college admissions scandal” (Salon) provides a good illustration of how much discretion there is for the people who run our criminal justice system:
The conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, but prosecutors said they recommended a sentence at the “low end” of the range — between four and 10 months — for the actress. They also recommended a fine of $20,000 and 12 months of supervised release.
In other words, if either the prosecutor or the judge had disliked Ms. Huffman for any reason, she could have been imprisoned for 20 years (longer than a typical murderer). Or, on the other hand, it might have been no prison/jail time if everyone showed up to court in a great mood. Or perhaps 14 days or any other number of days between 0 and 7,305.