History Of Intermediate Sanctions Criminology Essay

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According to Junger-Tas, most of the intermediate sanctions were experimented and entered the occidental penal system in the eighties. The question was why the need was felt to experiment with new sanctioning options and why the traditional sanctions were no longer satisfactory (Junger-Tas, 1994, p.44).

The first fact is that this new type of sanctioning was a response to the increase rate of crime, which occurs in the seventies, this increase gives rise to a public claim for more severe sentences. "Judges, despite their independence, are sensitive to public opinion, and in most western countries on sees a tendency among judges to impose more and longer prison sentences" (Junger-Tas, 1994, p.44). The result of the decision to give more and longer prison sentences was an increase of the prison population and a need to build more prison to put the convicted.

A second fact is that in the 1980s the population start to question the purpose and the utility of the sanction which in the sixties and seventies was the rehabilitation of the convict, a purpose that was never achieve with real success. This problematic combined with the emergence of the victim movement [1] leads to convict offenders to longer and stronger prison sentences.

Junger-Tas (1994) explains the third fact as followed:

The secular trend towards the humanization of the criminal justice system. This development should be seen in the framework of long-term changes in punishments, where death penalty, exile and corporal punishments have gradually come to be considered as degrading and unacceptable and have been replaced by the more humane prison sentence. (Junger-Tas, 1994, p.46-47)

Following this will to continue to humanize the actual penal system, there is a trend to replace prison with new sentencing within the community.

The result of the three facts was to create and elaborate alternative sanctions that will have to be integrated in the criminal justice system by conducting an reform of the sentencing system. In this purpose, appears "the development of sentencing guidelines for courts, initially in the United States but later also in Canada and in Europe" (Junger-Tas, 1994, p.47). These guidelines were created to help judges, who had different view of how to apply the new sanctions, and to be certain that these new sanctions were implemented as an alternative of the prison. The objectives of this new sentencing system were "to reduce the large and widespread disparities in sentencing, and to achieve a consistent and comprehensive sentencing system which includes both custodial and non-custodial sanctions" (Junger-Tas, 1994, p.51).


One should make the distinction between two type of objectives, the goals expected for the offender and those expected by the system. (Junger-Tas, 1994)

There are six different objectives related to the offender, these objectives are as Junger-Tas (1994) describes them:

To make sure the sanction is real punishment, satisfying the need for retribution and the need for a certain degree of incapacitation, through very intensive supervision and control in the community. Reparation to the victim or the community is an objective of some specific alternatives, such as community service, restitution or mediation. Rehabilitation clearly comes second and is sometimes even irrelevant, although countries to differ in this respect. (p.51)

For the system, there are three main objectives: "the reduction of the prison population, the reduction of costs through the substitution of expensive prison terms by cheaper alternatives, and the decrease of recidivism" (Junger-Tas, 1994, p.51).

Different alternatives

This section will only focus on the major alternatives that are substitutes for prison (it will not present the mediation nor the restitution), Junger-Tas (1994) enumerates six of them, and one can make a distinction between the alternatives for short prison sentence (two) and the alternatives for the category of more serious offenders (four).

The alternatives for short prison sentence are:

-Day-fines: consisting in paying a fine, that is calculated "according to the seriousness of the offence and the offender's financial capacity" (Junger-Tas, 1994, p.52).

-Community service: consisting in "the carrying out of useful - in some cases demanding - unpaid work as a reparation to the victim or the community, expressed in number of hours during a specified period" (Junger-Tas, 1994, p.52).

The alternatives for more serious offences are:

-Day centres, attendance centres, day probation, day reporting centres: "are meant to replace detention and to increase supervision, [...] day centres are used as substitutes for pre-trial detention or as form of early release for parolees" (Junger-Tas, 1994, p.52-53).

-Electronic monitoring: "The offender is detained in his home and controlled by an electronic device" (Junger-Tas, 1994, p.53). Two different systems can be used: one is using a transmitter, that is sending signal to a central computer, the second is using irregular telephonic calls. "The main objective is to create more cell capacity in prison, while making sure, by strict surveillance, that the offender is not on the street" (Junger-Tas, 1994, p.53).

-Intensive supervision programmes (ISPs): is used for serious category of offenders, Junger-Tas (1994) explains it as followed:

Consist of a number of punishment options under the very intensive control of probation officers. […] Intensive supervision is imposed in different ways. Byrne distinguished three different models (Byrne, 1986). First, the 'justice' model, based on the principle of 'just desert'. Sentencing responsibility is with the legislator or a sentencing commission and the model implies clear retribution and punishment. Second, the 'risk control' model, which tries to reconcile the reconviction risk of the offender with the concern for fair punishment. This model implies some prediction of future criminal behaviour. Given the fact that the power to predict future criminality is extremely limited, it is better to speak about a 'limited risk control' model. This model is especially interested in the reduction of recidivism and not so much in rehabilitation. […] Third, the 'treatment' model, which has a number of punishment elements but treatment is explicitly required. This model operates with individual treatment plans regarding such elements as training, employment, community service etc. Treatment is not an optional choice but is mandatory. Although ISP is meant for serious delinquents, in reality most projects deal with property offenders and small-scale drug dealers. (p.53)

-Boot camps: is an alternative for prison for young adult or offender convicted for the first time, and who are not violent. The prison sentence substitutes is 1.5-2 years. Junger-Tas (1994) gives the following explanation on this alternative:

Boot camps are characterized by military regime: a lot of drilling, marching, physical training, and military discipline, where even the slightest infraction is severely punished (Morash and Rucker, 1990). This is combined with hard physical labour, education, professional skills training, and sometimes counselling. It is expected that the combination of a strict military regime with rehabilitation activities will lead to a reduction of recidivism in these convicted young men. (p.54)

Effectiveness regarding the 3 objectives related to the system

In this part the focus will be placed on the three system-related objectives, which are the substitution for prison, the reduction of costs, and the reduction of recidivism. The reflection will be divided in to part, the first part will be with the findings of Junger-Tas (1994), and the second part with more recent findings from Wells, T.D. (2003), Byrne, J. M., & Miofsky, K-T. (2009), and Byrne, J. M., & Turner, S. (2010).

Findings of Junger-Tas (1994)

For the substitution to prison, Junger-Tas (1994) shows in her article that "there is hardly any evidence that alternative sanctions have an effect on prison space, considering the explosive growth of prisons […] alternative sanctions substitute for prison in 50-60 percent of cases at best " (Chan & Zdenkowski (1986), as cited in Junger-Tas, 1994, p.56). A report of the US General Accounting Office (1990) (as cited in Junger-Tas, 1994, p.56) shows that one of the reasons of this non-effectiveness is that the alternatives programmes are too small in term of size regarding the entire prison population.

In the case of costs reductions, according to Junger-Tas (1994), there is two easy way to make costs reductions, the first one is to close down the prison and the second one is to stop building new ones, the costs reduction is hard to calculate, and it must be calculated regarding the results of the prison substitutions (50 percent of the cases), because of the fact that the substitution is not really effective, and the fact that when there is a substitution, the empty place in prison is immediately filed up by an other offender, it is hard to concluded that the costs reductions objective is not a success (Junger-Tas, 1994).

The Third objective is the reduction of recidivism, "recidivism is measured in different ways: by counting new arrests, new convictions, self-report measures and in many cases also by counting breaches of the sanction's conditions" (Junger-Tas, 1994, p.58-59). To measure the effects of alternative sentencing on recidivism, studies compare groups of offender sentenced to alternative sanctions with groups of offenders sentenced to classic sanctions (Junger-Tas, 1994). The conclusions are that "differences in recidivism between programmes are essentially related to differences in the nature of the target population" (Junger-Tas, 1994, p.62), and also that the difference between the two groups (experimental, and control) may be explained by some factors, such as the programme policy about breaching the conditions, the more strict the policies are, the more chance the offender has to return to prison (Junger-Tas, 1994).

Despite the sober results of the alternative sentencing regarding their optimistic objectives, Junger-Tas (1994) thought that we should continue to expand and search for new alternative sanctions. First, because in most of the countries there are only three options: prison, fine and conditional sentence."If one wants to strive for sanctions that really 'deserved' and will better 'fit the crime', the system should be more flexible with more potential variations" (Junger-Tas, 1994, p.63). Second, the cost of alternative per individual is cheaper than prison and "if alternatives were to be imposed on a considerably larger scale than is now the case, the size of the prison population would be effectively reduced and, as consequence, this would also lead to costs reductions" (Junger-Tas, 1994, p.63). And the third argument is that "alternatives provide a more appropriate means to achieve the different aims of punishment - retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation - than imprisonment" (Junger-Tas, 1994, p.63).

Findings of Wells (2003), Byrne & Miofsky (2009)

Wells (2003)

In her article on boot camps, Wells (2003) found that in term of reduction of recidivism, boot camps were not really effective. "However, the research did indicate that some camps that added more treatment services, longer programs and intensive post release supervision did have some success in reducing recidivism" (Wells, 2003, p.142).

Regarding the costs reductions and the population reduction, Wells (2003) found that "boot camps might produce small relative but not significant overall reductions in prison populations […] reducing the number of prison beds needed could lead to modest reductions in correctional costs" (p.142).

Wells (2003) enumerates two reasons for the fact that boot camps failed to reduce recidivism. First, offenders do not have enough time to learn the life skills useful to re-enter the community. Second, the conflict between policies: "some prisons instituted early release policies that gave inmates the opportunity to serve shorter sentences - the major attraction of boot camps - without having to endure the rigors of boot camps" (Wells, 2003, p.142). Resulting in the fact that some offenders will not volunteered for a boot camps sentence instead of a prison sentence.

Byrne & Miofsky (2009)

In their article, Byrne & Miofsky (2009) explained that:

A wide range of programs can be examined under the general heading of intermediate sanctions, but systematic evidence-based reviews can only be identified for three sanction types at this time: intensive supervision, electronic monitoring programs, and boot camps. MacKenzie (2006) reviewed the research on the effectiveness of both intensive supervision and electronic monitoring programs. She identified 16 separate intensive supervision programs and 9 electronic monitoring programs that met her minimum review criteria. She reported that "a large body of research, including random assignment studies, consistently shows the failure of ISP and EM to lower recidivism" (2006, p. 323). Similarly, negative findings were reported in a recent evidence-based review by Wilson, MacKenzie, and Mitchel (2008), which was based on a review of 14 adult boot camp programs. However, much of the research on intermediate sanctions compares cohorts of offenders placed in an intermediate sanction program to a comparison group of offenders placed under probation supervision. We don't know how intermediate sanctions stack up against prison/jail sanctions, because the necessary research addressing this critical question has yet to be conducted. (p. 352)


Regarding to the facts explained in the article, it is not correct to say that the optimistic point of view of Junger-Tas (1994), which was that the system of alternative sanctions had to be expand and that new sanctions should be found and implemented, has not been reached yet. The facts are that at the present time, alternative sentencing effectiveness has not been demonstrated yet, theoretically the effects should be beneficial for the society, but in the fact it is not the case at the moment. Several authors gave some explanations on the non effectiveness of the alternative sanctions. This part of the article will discuss different opinions about the subject and try to give a view of the present situation.

For Jackson, de Keijser, & al, et. (1995), one of the difficulties about the research on alternative sanctions is that a lot of studies are needed to obtain accurate and scientific facts. But for the question of alternative sanctions, the results of the different studies are often contradictory. The fact is that the results are variables and depend of the target population, that are often very restrict.

For Byrne & Turner (2010), the problem of the non effectiveness of the non-custodial sanctions is caused by the fact that the alternative sanctions are underused in comparison to the custodial option. The reason to this can be explained by the fact that the judges are not effectively formed with the non-custodial system, the judges also have a lot of difficulties to find the appropriate non-custodial sanction for the offender, resulting in the over-use of prison and the under-use of alternative sanctions. Their solution was a reform of the federal sentencing guidelines.

Finally, to conclude this article, it can be said that at the present day, the effectiveness of the alternative sanctions regarding the three system-related objectives exist but is not significant, essentially because of the fact that the size of the programmes compared to the classical custodial system is too small, the results of alternative sanctions depend of the target population, and the non-custodial system is underutilize. To improve the effectiveness of alternative sanctions, judges should be better formed on the question and alternative sentencing should be implemented as a primary sentencing for the minor offences and not as a substitute for prison.