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Determinate sentencing is also well known as blended sentencing across the United States. This overview will allow for an understanding of what determinate sentencing is, how it works, pros and cons, and the types of delinquents that receive this form of sentencing. This blending of adult and juvenile sentencing primarily focused within Texas between 1987 and 2011 on the outcomes of the more than 3,000 offenders that were described in the textbook gave various examples of negative and positive supporting evidence to determine whether this policy is deemed effective.
Determining whether this policy is effective or not can be very difficult, but the final objective is to continue making positive progress in this type of sentencing. Texas and other states could respond differently and in various ways to these types of offenders which could possibly improve this overall process and potential outcomes.
Determinate sentencing is known as a blending of adult and juvenile measures in response to the increasing familiarity and changes of juvenile delinquency.
This sentencing was focused upon offenders who did not match appropriately with the traditional juvenile justice systems and the full impacts of the adult justice system was inappropriate. The idea is to primarily focus most of the attention upon the rehabilitation of these offenders rather than punishment because the overall idea is to bring the lives of these offenders back onto acceptable paths. As intended, determinate sentencing was created in order to be an arrangement of second chances that were meant to make sure even the most violent and serious of the juvenile offenders could receive that second chance at rehabilitation despite them committing their horrendous crimes to hopefully bring them back onto an acceptable path.
As of today, it is still a difficult topic to answer confidently who specifically should be given determinate sentencing and how many second chances should be extended to these individuals.
First, to determine whether this policy is seen to be effective or not we must understand how it works. Determinate sentencing can begin when a juvenile as young as the age of ten commits one of the thirty serious and violent offenses which was determined after years of progress in research and development of this form of sentencing. After the offender has been sentenced to determinate sentencing, they are then sent back to the county detention center where they have been held for the last few weeks or months prior to their court hearing. When they are back at the county detention center, the youthful offenders will stay for approximately thirty to sixty days while they are processed and assessed across a number of various classifications and treatment programming fields such as medical, emotional, educational, familial, and psychological in order to determine appropriate treatment programs and housing (Trulson, Haerle, Caudill, DeLisi, & Marquart, 2016).
Following the evaluations, the TYC also known as the Texas Youth Commission commitments are escorted to a more permanent facility that is based upon the specific treatment needs, distance to their homes, and other applicable considerations that were determined within their evaluation period. Finally, the sentenced offenders then face one of the two results that come from their determinate sentence. The first outcome is to prove significant and continuous progress toward rehabilitation and hope that the TYC system releases them to a community environment such as adult or juvenile parole or in rare cases complete release and discharge. The second outcome possible is for the offender to face the remainder of the adult portion of their determinate sentence in the Texas prison system after the additional hearing that determines what is most appropriate. To comprehend the effects that this form of sentencing has we must recognize the types of offenders who receive it.
When determinate sentencing was originally enacted by the Texas legislature it focused upon the following six serious and violent offenses: murder, capital murder, attempted capital murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, and deadly assault on a law enforcement officer (Trulson, Haerle, Caudill, DeLisi, & Marquart, 2016). In 1995, determinate sentencing then received its new name of Violent or Habitual Offenders act which had then lengthened the list of addressed offenses. It was then addressed again in 2001, the Texas legislature had expanded the range of the DSA which at the end of the day increased the list of the eligible offenses to thirty. As of today, any of these thirty offenses can qualify a juvenile offender between the ages of ten and sixteen years for determinate sentencing. Looking more personally, these sentenced offenders were typically seen as radical individuals across various life aspects and experiences even with their young age. Looking at their life history, most of these offenders were found to be already in harsh circumstances with previous delinquent involvement, educational deficits, and problematic and disadvantaged home environments chock-full with abuse, violence, and general chaos.
Understanding the basics of determinate sentencing also allows for us now to view the pros and cons of this approach. After offenders follow a relativity brief time in TYC, on average just three years, sixty-two percent of all 3,382 sentenced offenders received another second chance by being released from TYC to the community (Trulson, Haerle, Caudill, DeLisi, & Marquart, 2016). Of these offenders who were technically released back into the community most of them still faced further sanctioning on juvenile or adult parole while very few were released after serving their full sentences. A small amount of these offenders was totally compliant and received no citations for violating facility rules while most of them engaged in a variety of acts of noncompliance. Unfortunately, when reading the provided text it seems as through there are more identifiable cons than pros which can include but are not limited to the high risk of recidivism, unlikelihood for these offenders to transition as a functional member of society, idea of wasted resources, or even the future victimization of innocent people. Ultimately, the odds were against the offenders once they were back on the streets, and certain measurable factors increased their risk to public safety in the community.
It can specifically be summarized as, 62% of offenders who were released to the streets were rearrested and in general were at the greatest risk of being rearrested between four and twelve months after their release (Trulson, Haerle, Caudill, DeLisi, & Marquart, 2016). Even though there are shared risk factors and delinquent histories, sentenced youths still select different ways in which they want to respond to their confinement situations. As for pros of this form of sentencing, this could include but are not limited to giving a second chance to those offenders, some believe it is fair and just, and has the potential to reduce recidivism rates. Overall, as I stated previously it seems as though there are more cons than pros with determinate sentencing, but in theory, this approach has the ability to be more effective after continuous research and continuation in the advancements and understanding of what is likely to create the best outcomes.
Determining whether determinate sentencing is completely effective or not seems to be to presumptuous because of the various moving parts starting from the initial charging decisions, determination heating, and decision points in between. It is also difficult to determine effectiveness because some individuals believe that even though recidivism seems to be more likely which is negative there are still some positive outcomes that could be worth and may improve over time. There are those who would put a considerable amount of blame on the juvenile justice systems and juvenile correction authorities for youth recidivism or misconduct and other negative behaviors, but this criticism is not fair because this idea of having a perfect outcome each time is improbable. These juvenile facilities are being asked to make such huge changes in the course of perhaps two to three years and make sure they last a lifetime which is extremely unrealistic. As discussed in previous paragraphs, some of the youth will change due to the influences and experiences while confined but others just decide not to which again plays into the aspect that this form of sentencing cannot be perfect.
Once it is realized that juvenile justice and corrections cannot be everything to everyone, useful time and focus can be spent upon improving programs and processes associated with determinate sentencing to give those with the most promising positive factors the best chances for success (Trulson, Haerle, Caudill, DeLisi, & Marquart, 2016). Overall, it is unfair to specifically say whether this form of sentencing is effective or not effective in reducing recidivism among juveniles because the process not only has many different moving parts, but it also cannot change every individual within the system. As this system progresses, as it has over time, the possibility that the effectiveness at reducing recidivism may also increase as other processes are introduced.
Finally, determining what Texas and other states could do differently in responding to serious, chronic, and violent juvenile offenders is a loaded question. I say this because many individuals argue on the various contributing factors that go into creating these offenders and what is the ideal way of dealing with them such as locking them up without release, changing age limits within the determinate sentencing process, furthering research, public safety, and many more. So the main agreement is that there are many contributing factors with determining the sentencing of these offenders and future research seems to be the most prevalent in having the best possible outcomes. Contributing and competing factors such as retribution, rehabilitation, and individual freedom can make the process complex which then leads to inefficiency and uncertainty.
In the context of serious and violent crime, this means that someone will ultimately have to pay whether it be the juvenile offender sitting in a cell or to the next unsuspecting victim of a prematurely released serious and violent offender which creates the decision of which is worse when coming to that specific individual. These are just a few of the instances and general discussions that can make the idea of determining whether determinate sentencing is effective or not very difficult. In my opinion and what I have read by the provided text, we need to do a better job at identifying those who deserve second chances and those who do not when it comes to determinate sentencing. Emphasis could be provided upon reentry transitions, development of new assessments, incarceration transitions, and taking into account public safety as just a few examples. Overall, what Texas and other states can do is continue to research in order to determine a better way of identifying those who deserve second chances and those who do not in order to provide the best outcome not only for society but hopefully the offender.
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