The Effect of Sentencing - Essay Example

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Running head: THE EFFECT OF SENTENCING The Benefits, Drawbacks, and Deterrence Effects of Various Forms of Sentencing in the Criminal Justice System Author Author Affiliation Abstract How criminals in a justice system ought to be sentenced is relevant to how we deter individuals from committing crimes…
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Download file to see previous pages The Benefits, Drawbacks, and Deterrence Effects of Various Forms of Sentencing in the Criminal Justice System Sentencing is the product of a long process of bringing individuals to justice for their crimes and, as a result, it plays a crucial role in determining whether a criminal justice system is successful in achieving its purpose. If individuals are sentenced too harshly, according to rules that are too rigid, then the justice system has failed to live up to its promise of equitably distributing justice in society. If individuals are sentenced too laxly, according to rules that are not rigid enough, then the justice system can neither achieve retribution against offenders for their crimes against others nor achieve a deterrent effect to prevent further crime. The deterrent effect of sentencing is particularly important because criminals recognize the relative weight that prosecutors and judges place on certain crimes under certain circumstances; in cases in which a criminal knows sentencing will be soft, a crime is more likely to occur. Therefore, it is important for the criminal justice system to achieve a mean between too harsh and too soft in how crime in general is sentenced. Part of determining how to achieve this mean is by defining the kind of sentencing that ought to be practiced most often, with the major choices being indeterminate, determinate, and mandatory sentencing. Indeterminate sentencing denotes a term of incarceration that does not state a specific period of time or release date, but just a range of time. For instance, the imposition of “five-to-ten years” is an indeterminate sentence. Indeterminate sentencing is a perspective in criminal law closely tied to the rehabilitative perspective—the idea that prison should be an instrument for correcting and improving the behavior of inmates. According to O’Hear (2011), this perspective fell from favor in the 1970s and in the years that followed, many states pared back their investment in indeterminate sentencing practices where release dates were determined by a parole board years after the initial conviction. Besides the drawback of being linked to an antiquated theory of justice, indeterminate sentencing has the benefit of taking into account behavior while in prison as justification for expediting or delaying one’s release into society. Determinate sentencing, which is the imposition of a sentence that includes a fix or minimum period as specified by a statute. Determinate sentencing provides less flexibility than indeterminate sentencing, which is neither a benefit nor a drawback. However, one clear weakness with determinate sentencing is that situational factors do not enter easily into the equation. In Lockyer v. Andrade (2003), a form of determinate sentencing known as the three-strike law in California was challenged based on the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. The essence of the law is that a heavy sentence is required for individuals convicted of a third felony, which is thought to provide a strong deterrent effect after the second felony conviction. However, the nature of the three felonies could be as wide ranging as drug trafficking to shoplifting. Therefore, even if three felonies are relatively minor crimes, determinate senten ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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