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Sentencing Guidelines Reform - Research Paper Example

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There have been a number of reforms in sentencing policies within the recent years, with policies being enacted in at least 22 different states within the United States…
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Download file to see previous pages Likewise alternatives have been looked at for offenders of non-violent crime, such as community service. The Need for Sentencing Reforms The prison population has been rapidly growing for many years, with an increase of 7% in the period from 2000 to 2005 (King, 2007). The cost per day per prisoner of keeping criminals incarcerated is significant making the increases in prison population detrimental to the budgets of many states. In addition, there are costs associated with building new prisons if the population increases to that extend, and the associated space and land use. This places heavy demand on policy makers to try and determine sentencing laws and reforms that will limit the prison population. Punishments for crime are developed for multiple reasons including political, such as trying to win votes in an election, however one of the predominant drivers is decreasing the level of crime. The potential outcomes for committing a crime play a large role when individuals decide whether to follow through with a crime. For example, crime and punishment can be viewed as part of an economic model, where those who consider crimes weigh up the benefits of the crime versus all the potential costs. If the punishment for crime is high compared to the reward, then they are more likely to reconsider, this is especially true if the likelihood of prosecution and punishment is high (Reynolds, 1990). For this reason changes in sentencing must look at a balance between keeping the number of prisoners low, but still providing effective punishment and deterrent for crimes. In addition, punishment for crime can act to change behavior in criminals. For example, drug offenders are often driven largely by a need which comes from their addiction, and thieves may be responding to greed. Prison life may change this desire in a portion of those who are incarcerated, giving them time to think about who they are and what they are doing. Programs within prison and outside of it that focus on breaking addictive behaviors, such as treatment options for drug offenders can also be very productive methods of reducing crime rate. This is because without the addiction driving them, many criminals that committed drug offenses will no longer have the same strong need or desire to. Finally, incarceration is not an effective solution in all cases. When a crime is committed out of a perceived need, particularly in the case of drug addiction, incarceration acts as a punishment, but does nothing to reduce the likelihood of re-offense. When the criminal is released, the drivers that caused him to offend in the first case are still present, and re-offense is very likely. Drug Based Sentencing Reforms Sentencing reform legislation has focused on criminals who have committed low level offenses. This section will examine some of the types of legislation in more detail. Thirteen states passed legislation that looked at increasing the available options for drug treatment for the large number of non-violent drug-based crimes. Of these states, nine passed laws that created or extended sentencing diversion for drug offenders. Sentencing diversion involves sentencing sending the criminal to a facility or a program that worked with them in treating their drug problem. This was already present in a number of states, but sentencing reforms worked to clarify ambiguities within the law, thus allowing sentencing diversion to be used in an increased number of cases. Louisiana established a different sentencing diversion model for drug crimes than is used in other states. The model in this state allows for the sentence to be diverted and the individual to begin the treatment program without a statement of guilt, or a ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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