Determinate and Indeterminate Sentences

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When we talk about different types of sentencing the most coming types are indeterminate and determinate. They both serve the same function but have different out comes. They are both build to serve as punishments but to also rehabilitate at the same time. The main difference between these two sentences is the fact that indeterminate sentences offer early release in the form of parole and determinate sentences do not. Indeterminate sentences are defined as a sentence that permits early release from a correctional institution after the offender has served a required minimum portion of his or her sentence (Siegel, 01/2013, p.


And determinate sentences are defined as sentences that give the defendant a fixed term of years, the maximum set in law by the legislature, which is to be served by the offender sentenced to prison for a particular crime (Siegel, 01/2013, p. 41). Each type of sentencing has its own strengths and weakness’. Each of which helps the judge determine which type of sentencing would be best for each situation, for not all situations should be punished equally.

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The biggest advantage to indeterminate sentencing is that indeterminate sentencing permits flexibility both in the type of sentences that are imposed and the length of time to be served (Siegel, 01/2003, p. 40). Some more advantages include early release from jail/prison on ground of good behavior, causing there to be less people in the facilities thus helping with the overcrowding issue, rehabilitating, and different people respond very differently to punishments (Portman). A disadvantage to indeterminate sentencing is that it may not deter individuals from committing crimes.

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If a criminal is only charged 1-5 years for a drug related crime, and get outs after only one year due to good behavior, they may feel that what they did was worth the time given and do it again because a year isn’t that long. If this were the case, indeterminate sentences could make the crime rates go back up because the criminals would not see a short sentences as a deterrent. Determinate sentences also have their advantages and disadvantages. Determinate sentencing can scare criminals into no longer committing crimes due to the length of the sentences and not being able to be released on good behavior.

When serving a determinate sentence it is a general rule to serve at least 85% of the original sentence and if someone received good credits they may be released early (“Sentencing statutes and,” 2013), but not a substantial amount of time early. Because of this factor, determinate sentencing can reduce crime rates. If a criminal is sentenced to 25 years under determinate sentencing they must serve 25 years, unless they receive good credits, but still must serve at least 85% of the original sentence. It has already been stated that different people respond to different sentences differently.

With this in mind, it is important to determine which type of sentencing, indeterminate or determinant, would be best for each type of individual. Since everyone if different there must me a reason why they are different and why different influences require different sentences. For this essay we were asked to discuss which type of sentencing we feel would be most effective at address crime from three separate criminological perspectives: trait (psychological/biological); social (structure/process); and deterrence (classical/choice).

When you are dealing with psychological/biological reasons as to why and individual is a criminal you need to look into their family tree and they way they were raised. Some psychologists believe that some criminals commit crimes because that is just simply their personality. Anyone can become a criminal and commit a crime, but you see it more often in individuals that grew up around it. Their parents were and or are criminals. Their friends are criminals. Their peers are criminals. It is hard to live up to a life better then that when it is all that you know.

Sigmund Freud had a theory about personalities. He said that there are three elements of the personality, the id, ego, and superego. The id is the part of the personality that you have at birth. It is the part that makes you desire for the most basic of things. The id is driven by the pleasure principle, which strives for immediate gratification of all desires, wants, and needs. If these needs are not satisfied immediately, the result is a state anxiety or tension (Cherry, 2014). The next part of the ego that Mr. Freud discusses is the ego. The ego is the part of the moral part of the personality.

The part that deems what is right and wrong within the eyes of society and yourself. If your ego is not fully developed then you will not be able to stop yourself from the impulses that come from your id. Meaning that if crime is ingrained into their minds then they will have impulses to commit crimes. If they do not fulfill these urges then the urge will build to the point where they end up committing a more serious crime then they would have in the first place. The underlying issue could be part of the reason our systems repeat offenders are repeat offenders.

The sentence model that I feel would work best in addressing the psychological and biological criminological perspectives would be determinate sentencing. If an individual has the natural impulse to commit a crime and an underdeveloped ego to prevent them from committing the crime then there is no amount of time that will help them get better. There is a saying that you cannot teach old dogs new tricks. That saying goes with some criminals; there are some that you just cannot rehabilitate. So determinate sentencing would keep they away from them public and stop them from committing a crime for a longer period of time.

Everyone has a stigma against people that come from the ‘ghetto’. They think that they are good for nothing poor people that cant get by so they resort to crime. And sometimes this is the case, sometimes its not. There is a reason that a stereotype is a stereotype. It has some underlying truth. It is true that some people are criminals because they really do feel that they cannot get by on a day-to-day basis with an honest job, and if they could they don’t think that they would qualify for one. So what do they do? They start to steal, sell drugs, and even sell their bodies or join a gang.

But not everyone in the ‘ghetto’ is like that. Some work very hard to make a living, but it just isn’t enough to get them out of that environment. According to Shanali Inchaustegui: “When you look at the theory, the strains might not necessarily come from people’s frustrations with acquiring The American Dream, but rather a mixture in strains such as homelessness, abuse and neglect, subcultures, deviant values and frustrations about poverty. Meaning, there might be more than one factor in play when a person is “influenced” to commit a crime by interacting within an imposed economic class”.

Many things within society, your social surroundings, can make someone commit a crime. People from this criminological perspective someone can recover and learn from their actions if given the opportunity. Because of this I feel that indeterminate sentencing would be best. With indeterminate sentencing someone can be released early due to good behavior. During that time the said individual would have had the opportunity to learn from their mistakes, acquire an education, and be given opportunities that will give them a new a better life. The last criminological perspective is classical/choice (deterrent).

From this perspective criminals are individuals that commit a crime for no other reason then they choose to do it. They under stand the risks associated with the crime but choose to go through with it anyways. Classical and choice perspectives are very similar to one another. Choice is when individuals choose to commit a crime after looking at all the opportunities and decided if the crime is worth the punishment or not. Classic is almost identical to choice except after weighing the options they decided to commit the crime because it was advantageous to do so (Criminology, 2014).

You need to be assertive when dealing with criminals that have decided to commit a crime knowing full well that it is wrong and that they have options or avenues other then committing a crime to get what they need and or want. If you are not assertive with them then they will think that its really not that big of a deal and that they will be able to get away with it time and time again. With choice and classical perspectives I feel that that determinant sentences would be the best option. It shows the criminals that the law is taking a zero tolerance stand against crime.

Determinate sentences will make them think twice before they commit the crime because they will know that if they are convicted they are guaranteed a set amount of time behind bars. Both indeterminate and determinate sentences have their place in the legal system. Whether one is better then the other is hard to say. Indeterminate sentences allow for early release for good behavior where as determinate does not. Determinate sentencing, however, does allow for good credits to be applied to their sentence so they can be released early, but they must complete at least 85% of their sentence.

So they both have that upside. A down side to indeterminate sentencing that two different people that commit the same crime can get two different sentences. For example one may just get a fine and community service while the other could get 5 years jail time. To me that isn’t fair, unless there is an underlining reason as to why someone getting a harsher sentence like being in trouble with the law before. Determinate sentences give the same amount of time regardless. This could also been seen as unfair because regardless of your past you are going to get the same amount of time. I personally feel that determinate sentencing is the option that is most likely going to deter more crime. It makes the criminals know what their sentence is going to be if convicted. They ‘know’ that if they get caught, charged, and convicted they are going to have to serve that amount of time and or pay a certain amount of a fine. And with indeterminate sentences they have a chance at lesser punishment. I really think that determinate sentences would deter more crime then indeterminate sentences.

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Determinate and Indeterminate Sentences. (2018, Oct 17). Retrieved from

Determinate and Indeterminate Sentences
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