Table of Contents
Not all conviction cases ends up with a trip to jail and if the convicted person makes it to the prison, the case can as well be ruled in many different forms (Swanson, 2011). It is the role of the court administrators i.e. the judges and the prosecutors to ensure the accused person gets the best sentence that matches their actions in terms of violating the law of the state (Šimonis, 2017). In doing so, the prosecutor has a role to prove to the judges that the accused actually did whatever wrong is alleged against them. This is because the law states that all persons are presumed innocent till they are proven otherwise through a fair application of the law (Swanson, 2011). Therefore, on one side is the prosecutor (mainly the police or the state attorney) and on the other side is the judge. The prosecutor will advocate for the wrong which made them arrest the accused. On the other hand, the judge will dissect the burden of evidence presented to them to ensure that the rights of the accused are respected. Mainly, it is a battle of words between the prosecutors and the judges although they both represent the state’s interest.
Judges eventually make a decision on the most suitable sentence alternative on the accused depending on several factors like the nature and the severity of the crime, the criminal history of the defendant, the age of the defendant, the defendant’s remorse and the impact the crime will have on the victims (Swanson, 2011). The various alternatives of sentences that the judges may accord the defendant include fines, community service, probation, restitution, suspension, deferred judgment etc.
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Taking into consideration the various factors within the legal framework, the judge may decide to hand the defendant a suspended sentence as an alternative to going to prison (Šimonis, 2017). In this case, the judge will consider factors like that the defendant is a first time criminal, or has committed a crime that bears insignificant impacts to the victims etc. The suspension may be conditional or unconditional. Unconditional suspensions have no strings attached while conditional suspensions requires that the defendant meet all the requirements as set out by the suspension (Guzman & Duffy, 2013). An example of conditional suspension is where the defendant is required to enroll with a substance abuse program and further that the defendant should avoid committing any further crimes.
Another sentence the judges may give is a probation whereby the defendant is released back to the community but they do not enjoy similar levels of freedom of a normal citizen (Šimonis, 2017). This is mainly awarded to low-risk and first-time offenders. Normally, probations are conditional as the defendant is restricted to certain behaviors only.
Fines, community service, restitution and pretrial diversion are the other commonly used alternative sentences that form part of the great work done by court administrators.
Factors considered in determining the appropriateness of a sentence
The Eight and the Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. constitution sets out the framework upon which appropriateness of a sentence can be measured. It states that “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” In the federal courts, the punishing procedure is governed by the punishing restrictions of the Constitution (Guzman & Duffy, 2013).
The above stated constitutional prohibitions consider the aggravating and mitigating circumstances of a crime as a major factor in determining the appropriateness of a sentence (Šimonis, 2017). Mostly, the provisions that identifies a crime also defines the appropriate punishment for them (Swanson, 2011). For instance, a statute may read, “Violation of this statute constitutes a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not to exceed $500 or imprisonment not to exceed 30 days, or both.” With the above given range of potential punishment, the judge should therefore deliver his verdict within that range.
Further, the judges considers the defendant’s own words as a factor in giving sentences (Guzman & Duffy, 2013). In every other case, the defendant will be asked to produce a message about themselves in effort to produce information that can mitigate the punishment. Similarly, the attorney representing the government will make a similar statement to give his recommendation and the two play crucial role in informing the sentencing decision by the judges.
Alternatives to incarcerations
This is a new global approach to correcting criminals. It emerged after the World War II as many nations pondered over the notion of keeping the prison as the sole primary correctional institution/ strategy (Milloy, Kerr, Salters, Samji, Guillemi, Montaner, & Wood, 2013). Analysts have observed that if well practiced, the various alternatives to imprisonment have advantages both to the criminal and the state as well. The criminal first has the chance to continue with their life unlike if they were confined behind bars in a prison cell (Clark, Dolan, & Farabee, 2017). Also, the criminal can be put in community based programs to the advantage of the country through the provision of cheap labor. Above all, the alternatives offers the country a chance to regulate the population of the inmates by applying these various means (Clark, Dolan, & Farabee, 2017). To fully understand how these alternatives can help regulate population in the prisons, this study first looks at the various alternatives to incarceration and how each contributes to bringing the desired solution of decongesting the prisons.
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This is a common alternative to imprisonment if the court feels that the crime committed by the defendant is a serious one but does not warrant that they be detained (Milloy, Kerr, Salters, Samji, Guillemi, Montaner, & Wood, 2013). In such a case, the court decides that the accused pay for their wrongdoing through participation in productive unpaid work in the community. The aim of community service in most countries is to restrict freedom and as such it should be emotionally and physically demanding to achieve exactly that. The fact that community service is done by a criminal while still outside the prison premises offers a great avenue of decongesting the prisons which has over the years been exploited by courts across the world (Milloy, Kerr, Salters, Samji, Guillemi, Montaner, & Wood, 2013). It is effective in that the country benefits through the productive work done at little or no cost and that the criminal is rectified from their evil behaviors.
This is in case the court directs to have the committed person detained in prison at certain times of the day or the week like on weekends or at night between 18h00 and 06h00. Depending on how the court decides, a person who has committed a felony or any other crime other than first degree murder or Class X and/ Class 1 crime as defined by the U.S. constitution may be sentenced with periodical imprisonment for as long as the court deems it right (Milloy, Kerr, Salters, Samji, Guillemi, Montaner, & Wood, 2013). Unless otherwise stated by the court, the particular conditions and times for which the committed person will be imprisoned or freed will be determined by the Sheriff, the Department of Correction etc. (Vuong, Hartney, Krisberg, & Marchionna, 2010). If well managed, the periodical imprisonment program can serve to ensure that the prisons are never full at any moment through a thorough rotation plan of the law offenders.
House arrest/electronic monitoring
Home detention has been used as an alternative to imprisonment with an aim to reduce re-offending while at the same time trying to deal with the problem of ever increasing prison numbers and rising costs of keeping the high numbers of inmates (Clark, Dolan, & Farabee, 2017). Offenders are also given a chance to seek or retain their employment programs, carry on with their family responsibilities, attend rehabilitative programs among many other factors that can contribute to their well-being in the future.
Other commonly used alternatives include correctional supervision and day parole all of which have the effect of reducing the costs on the side of government and checking the prison population.
- Clark, N., Dolan, K., & Farabee, D. (2017). Public health alternatives to incarceration for drug offenders. Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal, 23(3), 222-230. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezp-01.lirn.net/docview/1912916907?accountid=158399
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