Sentencing and Punishment: Philosophies, Recommendations, and Affects
Tosha Stewart, Alicia Fink, Bernessa Perry, Navneet Rodriguez
December 13, 2010
Richard S Stolker
Sentencing and Punishment: Philosophies, Recommendations, and Affects
Sentencing and punishment is the way that civilization has dealt with individuals who think that the laws do not imply to him or her for many centuries. “The contemporary American correctional system—which includes probation, parole, jails, prisons, capital punishment, and a variety of innovative alternatives to traditional sentences—is tasked with far more than merely carrying out sentences” (Schmalleger, 2009). Today society categorizes, examines, and reexamines the way it punishes and how the punishment is working. Five main sentencing philosophies are used: deterrence (threat of punishment), incapacitation (prevention), rehabilitation (intervention and treatment), restoration (repaying the victim), and retribution (justifiable punishment). When examining these philosophies individuals have provided recommendations to the sentencing policies and procedures to help fix the problems that are encountered. These suggestions include addressing sentencing policies, incarceration alternatives and additional treatment options, changing the mandatory minimum while restoring discretion, examining supervision policies and how revocations contribute to admissions, policies that can reduce incarceration time, allowing probation officers to adjust terms of supervision, and creating more constructive outcomes. Some conventional and unconventional treatment options are in place to help correct the effects of sentencing on an offender and to help reduce the chances of the offender becoming a repeat offender. The conventional and unconventional treatment options include the following: anger management classes, drug treatment and rehabilitation, meditation, arts programs, and job placement programs. In this paper we will be look at these three parts of sentencing and punishment: sentencing philosophies, sentencing recommendations, and sentencing effects.
Sentencing philosophies are goals used in sentencing an offender for the crime that he or she has been convicted of. Five main philosophies are used: deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation, restoration, and retribution (Doris, 2001).
Deterrence uses the threat of punishment as a means to prevent individuals from committing crimes. The idea is that if a criminal knows the punishment then he or she will think twice before acting for fear of the punishment. There are two kinds of deterrence: specific and general deterrence. General deterrence occurs when an example is made of someone who commits a crime, so a person who is given the death penalty would be a general deterrence to others thinking of committing the same crime. Specific deterrence is aimed at a specific person. The goal of using this method is to have the offender understand the consequences of making decisions (Doris, 2001). Whereas deterrence is effective for some criminals, it is not effective for all. An example of not being effective is during a crime of passion. A reasonable person could get caught up in the moment and not think about the consequences of his or her actions during a time like that.
Criminal incapacitation occurs when the offender is prevented from being able to prevent any future crimes by keeping him or her detained. The idea is that as long as the offender is behind bars then he or she cannot commit any crimes (Theories of Punishment, 2010). While this does work, it is a very costly approach to crime and is therefore reserved for the serious offenses such as murder.
Rehabilitation occurs when the system tries to prevent crime by intervention. Programs are designed to help offenders get his or her life back in order and learn to make better choices. This sentencing philosophy is more likely to be successful for nonviolent offenders and first time offenders (Theories of Punishment, 2010).
Restoration, also referred to as restorative justice principles, occurs when the victim is given compensation for the damages that were done because of the crime committed. After a crime has been committed toward a person, that person can suffer more than monetary damages. The damages can be emotionally or physically and restoration will attempt to repay for those damages. Restorative justice uses guiding principles. These principles are crime is on offense against human relationships, victims and the community are central to justice processes, the first priority of justice processes is to assist victims, the second priority is to restore the community (to the degree possible), the offender has personal responsibility to victims and the community for crimes committed, stakeholders share responsibilities for restorative justice through partnerships for actions, the offender will develop improved competency and understanding as a result of the restorative justice experience (Theories of Punishment, 2010).
Retribution is the theory that the punishment should fit the crime. The just deserts theory, which says that an offender should have a punishment that fits the crime will fall into the retribution category. The phrase “an eye for an eye” is also part of the retribution theory. This is one of the most practiced theories of punishment and the one that most are familiar with (Theories of Punishment, 2010).
The last four decades have borne witness to a historic expansion in the use of incarceration as a method of combating crime. While incarceration was originally conceived of as an alternative to corporal punishment, and used in the absence of other, less intrusive measures to force compliance with community norms, the last 40 years have seen nothing less than an anatomical shift. The United States’ rate of incarceration continues to be the highest in the world. Concerns with large prison populations should address sentencing policies such as mandatory minimums and parole mechanisms when examining the practices contributing to the prison populations. Sentencing reforms are only a part of a broader effort that should involve alternatives to incarceration and expanding treatment options.
Mandatory minimums do not reduce crime but result in lengthy prison terms contributing to prison overcrowding. Mandatory sentencing policies impose a “one size fits all” sentencing structure that fails to account for the individual circumstances of the offender and the offense. As a result, they too frequently produce sentencing outcomes that are considered excessive by a reasonable measure. Mandatory sentencing have too often produced miscarriages of justice. Reforms repealing mandatory minimum provisions and restoring judicial discretion can both control prison growth and enhance the fairness of state criminal justice systems.
More than five million people are on probation or parole in the United States. Examine community supervision policies and how probation and parole revocations contribute to prison admissions is an important step in controlling overcrowding. Good time and earned time policies can reduce a person’s prison sentence following the successful completion of rehabilitative programs such as vocational education or substance abuse treatment. Adopting measures that reduce prison sentences can alleviate overcrowding, and still maintain public safety.
Establishing intermediate sanctions that permit probation officers to amend the terms of supervision, in some cases increasing supervision to address persons who appear to be at high risk of re-offending, rather than resorting to a revocation to custody is one reform idea that should be explored. Incentives such as performance-based grants to agencies that reduce probation and parole failures by at least 10% should be implemented.
Whether intended or not, mandatory sentencing policies in the United States have produced distorted sentencing outcomes while failing to contribute to public safety. These policies have been a major contributor in the crisis of over-incarceration in the United States, one that is currently causing cutbacks in vital state services as a result of the high cost of prison spending. It is long past time to restore a better balance of the use of discretion within the criminal justice system as a means of producing more constructive sentencing and corrections outcomes.
The various types of punishment such as incarceration and parole have an effect on criminal offenders. A person on parole has limitations on his or her livelihood but is still able to function in society. He or she has once been incarcerated but have been granted an early release from the individual’s original sentencing. The person can be subject to periodic drug and alcohol testing, unannounced visits from parole officers, revocation of driving license, and community work. Any violation of the provisions set forth will result in returning to jail. When a person is incarcerated, he or she is kept away from society. The person is confined to walls. Many cannot cope with incarceration. This is a totally different lifestyle. The person is housed with all walks of life. The confinement of being behind bars and not being able to see family and friends, controlled by another, and living with a schedule can cause mental anguish, bitterness, and hostility. As an adult he or she is accustomed to taking control of his or her own life. When incarcerated the individual’s life is controlled by the corrections system.
There could be several programs put into place to help an inmate prepare for being released back into society and prevent recidivism. Anger management classes would help with an inmate who is often angry. It would teach him or her how to deal with anger in a positive way. Drug treatment and Rehabilitation could be used for the drug users. This program could detoxify a drug user but also help the offender realize the effect drugs have on him or her and others. Help the offender to learn the alternative to using drugs. Meditation could be used between the victims and accused. This would give the family closure but also allow the accuser to know how the family feels. It could help the accuser to see what the effect of his or her actions are so that he or she may not do it again. Arts program would help with communication. This would help the individual be creative at the same time being expressive in a positive way. Job placement program would be very beneficial to an inmate. An inmate that has been incarcerated for a long time has no idea of the work field or ethics. They would have to be trained all over and start from the bottom. The program would teach them all the fundamentals of job search and job employment. It would teach them how not to be discouraged with employment but to continue searching. This program would help them to be more productive in society.
In this paper we have examined three main subjects: sentencing philosophies, sentencing recommendations, and sentencing effects. Sentencing philosophies are put into five main categories. The first is deterrence, which refers to the threat of the punishment. The second is incapacitation or prevention of the offender committing the crime. The third is rehabilitation of the offender which is often achieved by intervention and treatment. The fourth is restoration, which occurs when the offender is required to repay the victim of his or her crime for the damages that have been done. The fifth is retribution. This philosophy examines the justifiable punishment for each crime committed. When examining these five philosophies many people review the punishments handed out every day and try to figure out a way to iron out the kinks. A few recommendations to help with this have been to look over sentencing policies, such as address sentencing policies, finding alternatives to incarceration and expanding treatment options, repealing mandatory minimum provisions and restoring judicial discretion examining community supervision policies and how probation and parole revocations contribute to prison admissions, allowing good time and earned time policies that can reduce a person’s prison sentence, establishing intermediate sanctions that permit probation officers to amend the terms of supervision, and producing more constructive sentencing and corrections outcomes. The effects of these punishments greatly affect a person’s life. Some treatment options are in place to help correct these effects and reduce the chances of the offender becoming a repeat offender. The conventional and unconventional treatment options we have discussed include the following: anger management classes, drug treatment and rehabilitation, meditation, arts programs, and job placement programs. All of these programs are in place to help with the corrections process of the criminal justice system. The sentencing philosophies, sentencing recommendations, and sentencing effects are part of our current justice system as we strive to create a better world for everyone to live in.
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