When a person has plead guilty or is found to be guilty of a crime the judge determines their sentence. Sentencing is imposing a criminal sanction by a judicial authority (Seiter, 2011). Every year there are thousands of criminals that are sentenced for their crimes. Sentencing is an important process in the criminal justice system. It is the result of punishment from the courts. There are different reasons for sentencing in the United States. The major reasons for punishment include deterrence, retribution, rehabilitation, incapacitation, and reparation. The federal and state corrections systems also have mandatory minimum sentences; three strikes laws, and sentencing guidelines frequently require specific sentences that have little consideration of personal factors. They also have determinate and indeterminate sentencing, which creates a deterrent for offenders.
There are five major types of punishment. There are two types of deterrence: individual and general. Individual deterrence involves deterring someone that has already offended from reoffending. General deterrence is stopping those who would offend from offending because of the punishment that others are receiving. Retribution is the theory that the punishment is right because it is deserved. Retribution has been around for some time, it is better known to some as “an eye for an eye” or “a life for a life” in more cases. Rehabilitation is to bring back to life, through therapy and education. A goal of rehabilitation is to prevent habitual offending. Incapacitation is seen as a good consequence of punishment because while behind bars the offender is out of society and unable to reoffend. Reparation means that the offender must make restitution to the victim as part of the punishment as a part of their condition for reentry to society. Reparation may be added with incarceration or rehabilitation.
There has been an increase of offender populations, which is due to a change in sentencing. Sentencing affects the corrections system because there has to be room for all the offenders and there has to be money for the cost of community supervision. With the amount of offenders increasing there has been a cost to build more prisons and expand. The female population of those incarcerated has had an increase of 436 percent since 1999 (MacKenzie, 2001). The male population has also increase, but not at the same rate of the women. This increase has had an effect on the state and federal correctional system. A consequence of the enormous growth in correctional populations, the cost of corrections personnel has also increased. The cost of correctional activities by State governments grew from $4.26 billion in 1980 to $21.27 billion in 1994 (MacKenzie, 2001). With the increase of determinate sentencing their has been a higher cost of keeping inmates in institutions rather then having them paroled and on community supervision. In 1996, the average annual expenditure per inmate in State prisons was $20,100. The cost for those same inmates to be out on parole supervision was $975 (MacKenzie, 2001).
That is a huge increase of cost placed on taxpayers. In the United States there are two primary models used for sentences, they are determinate and indeterminate. Indeterminate sentences are a blend of the decisions by the judge and a later decision by the release authority. The judge gives a range of time that should be served. An example would be the inmate is sentenced to 30 to 40 years. After the inmate would serve the thirty years then he would be eligible for a meeting with the parole board. The parole board would then make a decision if he can be release or if he has to serve out the remainder of the sentence. Determinate sentences are straightforward. The offender is only eligible for release when they complete the time sentenced by the judge. A parole board does not review determinate sentences and the offenders do not receive an early release. A type of determinant sentencing is the three strikes law. These mandated a heavy sentence for anyone who was convicted of a third felony.
For example, California requires a minimum of 25 years to life for a third conviction for a serious felony, and it doubles the usual sentence imposed for the crime when it is a second offense (Free Dictionary, 2014). The purpose of the law is to incapacitate repeat offenders and deter others from offending. I feel that each model is appropriate in different situations. The indeterminate sentence is a lot more lenient and would be right for a first time offender who pleads guilty and a trial wasn’t conducted. Determinate sentencing is appropriate for those habitual offenders. I do like California’s three strikes law; I feel more states should have this law. I’m sure offenders who have two felony convictions high tail it out of that state so they do not have to receive the third felony conviction there and get handed a 25 year to life sentence. In conclusion, a sentence is handed down when a person pleads guilty or is found guilty of a crime. The judge can give a determinate sentence, which is an exact amount of years.
There is no opportunity to get out early by seeing a parole board. The judge’s other option is to give a indeterminate sentence, which is a range of years. When the minimum range is met the inmate can see the parole board who can grant parole at that time or make them finish out there maximum sentence. The federal and state corrections systems also have mandatory minimum sentences; three strikes laws, and sentencing guidelines frequently require specific sentences that have little consideration of personal factors. Every year there are thousands of criminals that are sentenced for their crimes. Sentencing is an important process in the criminal justice system. There has been an increase in those sentenced and incarcerated, which has lead to steep costs on the federal and state governments. These incarcerations are for different reasons based on the five major reasons for sentencing in the United States. The major reasons include deterrence, retribution, rehabilitation, incapacitation, and reparation.
Free Dictionary. (2014). Determinate Sentence. http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Determinate+Sentence
MacKenzie, Doris. (2001). Sentencing and Corrections in the 21st Century: Setting the Stage for the Future. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/189106-2.pdf
Seiter, R. (2011). Corrections an introduction (3rd edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.
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