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Impact of Sentencing Models
The indeterminate sentence gives hope that prisoners will be rehabilitated on account of good behavior while they are incarcerated. Moreover, the advantage of being released from prison fast and avoiding serving a long sentence time may help reform offenders as they will pursue rehabilitation during their incarceration period (Petersilia & Reitz, 2012). However, it has a negative side that the parole board is handed so much power and, in some cases, they may discriminate on certain offenders and also decide to release prisoners who are less deserving earlier or discriminate in terms of race and economic strength (Petersilia & Reitz, 2012). Sentencing models represent ways and strategies crafted for the sake of issuing punishments for various crimes that are committed. For some time back in the 19th century, the sentences involved certain measures as being fined, issuance of flat sentences and at times offenders were kept on probation. For instance, flat sentences meant one had no chance for early release or parole, and the entire sentence had to be served. However, new models were created by the end of the 19th century; they include determinate, indeterminate, presumptive, minimum mandatory sentencing, and voluntary/advisory guidelines (Petersilia & Reitz 2012). For all the available models, a good number of states utilize the structured sentencing type which involved voluntary, determinate, or presumptive sentencing.
Determinate sentencing is whereby a mandatory fixed sentence is given to offenders; it represents the commonest sentencing method. A sentence is administered to an offender who is fixed, and it provides no discretion in the decision, and no range is available. A large part of the sentences given involved being kept on probation or incarcerated (Stemen & Rengifo 2011). Additionally, a specific sentencing guideline may be employed to determine individual charges for specific crimes and offenders who repeat the offenses they were charged with. For instance, the law of “three strikes” that allows for life sentences given to offenders who have been convicted under a third felony conviction. The sentences that are most commonly given through this model involve incarceration and several types of probation, but this model is practiced differently among each state (Datta, 2017).
The indeterminate sentencing model is where the judge giving the sentence specifies the minimum and maximum sentence, but the parole board exclusively decides the specific time frame of serving a sentence. Moreover, other factors such as good behavior, overcrowding in prisons may influence the release of an offender before serving the entire term of imprisonment provided the offender has already served the minimum time, he/she was handed (Stinchcomb, 2011). In short, the prisoners obtain credits through participation in projects, educational programs or experiments, and good behavior, which contributes to lessening the prisoner’s sentencing period. The indeterminate sentencing model has come under heavy criticism where the decisions made through the use of the system have been subject to abuse, individualized, and slightly subjective. Therefore, for some states, they have modified the rules or introduced fixed sentences (Stinchcomb, 2011).
The voluntary/advisory sentencing model is when a guide or recommended sentences which were issued in past cases are used by a judge to decide the period of sentencing, and the judge is in a position to use a sentencing commission guideline to issue judgments (Petersilia & Reitz, 2012). It follows a certain guideline that has been authorized by the sentencing commission. The guidelines effectively help the judges to decide offenders sentencing time and provide a differentiated type of punishment where, unlike cases, are solved in a different way as those with similarities are tackled in the same way. Besides, it is important to note that it is not mandatory to use the guidelines. The judge uses the model just as a guideline and has the powers to select the sentencing period, which is within the range provided or else may use other guidelines to issue sentences (Petersilia & Reitz, 2012). Likewise, all crimes under this model are categorized about their seriousness, and the period for serving each crime is documented. The whole judgment issued is guided by specific guidelines which the sentencing commission has authorized. Also, sentences are issued accordingly limiting the influence the characteristics of offenders may pose such as the economic status and race in determining the cases, and the sentences are more transparent, thus limiting the chances of discrimination. The involvement of the sentencing commission helps in quality control, so they can review decisions on cases if they meet the expected goals and in return, they may adjust certain policies for effective sentencing in the future. The negative side is that sentences are more predictable, and this may increase cases of offenses as individuals are certain of the punishments that await them (Stemen & Rengifo 2011).
- Datta, A. (2017). California’s Three Strikes Law Revisited: Assessing the Long-Term Effects of the Law. Atlantic Economic Journal, 45(2), 225–249. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11293-017-9544-8
- Petersilia, J., & Reitz, K. R. (Eds.). (2012). The Oxford handbook of sentencing and corrections. Oxford University Press.
- Stemen, D., & Rengifo, A. F. (2011). Policies and imprisonment: The impact of structured sentencing and determinate sentencing on state incarceration rates, 1978–2004. Justice Quarterly, 28(1), 174-201.
- Stinchcomb, J. B. (2011). Corrections: Foundations for the future. Routledge.
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