The concept of sentencing in the U.S. was formulated in the 18th century. According to the Race, sentencing and the tough crime movement (n.d.), In the late 18th and early 19th century, federal and state legislators typically set mandatory penalties for violations of law (n.p.). Historically, the national criminal sentence system has been imposed for four main objectives. Those are the retribution, deterrence, rehabilitation and incapacitation. The global objective of federal justice system is to complete the sentences for the committed crimes as well as to prevent potential criminal behavior. More detailed objectives are:
- Denunciation of unlawful conduct;
- Deterring the criminals from further offences;
- Separation of offenders from other part of community in case if it is necessary;
- Assistance in rehabilitation;
- Providing reparations for possible damage or injury of victims;
- Promotion of acknowledgment and a sense of responsibility.
In present, community believes that the rehabilitation is the most important issue for inmates in the criminal justice system. Although, it has been an issue of controversial discussions since some states has adopted it as the main form of punishment in criminal sentencing. However, the government has long dispensed with rehabilitation as a main basis for criminal penalties in federal institutions.
Judges deter criminal activity with sentences. Possible punishment may include lengthy incarceration sentence or restitution to a victim. Deterrence is a key element due to the fact that it disheartens the persons who are convicted in illegal activity. Incapacitation defends the community from potential criminal activity.
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Another fundamental purpose of sentencing is the contribution of respect for the law and justice as well as to maintain safe and peace in society. The punishment must be proportionate to the crime and the value of offenders responsibility.
Sentencing is affecting the state and federal corrections systems when judicial authority imposes criminal sanctions. At the same time, the system of sentencing demands more and more capital investments every year and corresponding reforms of the system of justice in order to make it more effective. Once a person has either been found guilty or pleaded guilty, court must determine a punishment that he or she should get. Every year, thousands of offenders go through justice systems to be sentenced for the crimes committed. All these processes demand coordinated actions of police and system of the court. Together with the abolition of the death penalty in some states and the countries, the punishment for minor crimes became much tougher. Mandatory minor sentences, sentencing guidelines and three strikes laws frequently require specific punishments, with little consideration of individual factors regarding crimes, offender sane victims. Sentencing descriptions are for the persons punished for a period less than one year of incarceration or primarily for felony offenses. The federal and state court systems are equally influenced by sentencing.
In the judicial process, while sentencing a criminal offender, there is a difference between determinate and indeterminate sentencing. Determinate and indeterminate sentences are both primary models of sentencing used throughout the U.S. Determinate sentences are sentences when a fixed term or incarceration is imposed. Determinate sentencing eliminates credit for participation and parole boards in rehabilitation programs. The inmates are been resealed only after the completion of the time appointed by a court in their case. Determinate sentence does not provide offenders to be released early since it cannot be reviewed or changed by any parole board. However, a prisoner sentenced under a determinate sentence can be released early due to overcrowding or good time credits. States or countries with determinate sentencing often rule out any possibility of alternative or probation to prison, and deny the court any discretion over the length of the sentence. Determinate sentencing is a main factor leading to the increasing of the prison population that becomes a real problem at the moment. Kirchhoff (2010) states, The corrections sector is in stress as states seek to reduce prison populations and rein in costs. The efforts have been underway for several years, but have intensified as the recession that began at the end of 2007 has wrought havoc on state budgets (n.p.).
On the contrary, an indeterminate sentence has no definite time duration. Indeterminate sentence leaves the decision to the sentencing judge to determine the actual time of imprisonment. During the sentencing, the judge establishes the period of imprisonment. Afterwards, the inmate serves a minimum period of time; in fact, he/ she is given a possibility to be released by the parole board. A person will have the maximum sentence in case if the parole board is not accepted by the court. The prison term does not give a specific date of release or time of imprisonment, just a range of time e.g. Two-to-five years. Indeterminate sentence is widespread type of sentencing since about 72% of all inmates were released on parole.
Factors considered in granting parole to an indeterminate sentence prisoner include:
The period of time, which the prisoner has served on conviction to date;
The original recommendation of the prosecutor and the sentencing judge;
The person`s entire criminal history;
Any circumstances or mitigating, aggravating factors that have relation to the crime of conviction.
Refusal or participation in available resources or programs designed to assist an inmate in reducing possible risk of further crimes.
The danger to public safety. Evidence that a person does not presents a substantial danger to the community in case of releasing.
Evidences of prisoners continuing propensity or intent to engage in illegal activity (e.g., victim harassment, use of illegal substances, criminal conduct while incarcerated);
Declarations or statements by the inmate that he/she does not intend to comply with conditions of parole and intends to reoffend;
Repetitive and serious disciplinary infractions during imprisonment;
All available information from the victim and victims family, to include concerns about the inmate's potential release; comment on the impact of the crime and requests for conditions of possible releasing.
I consider indeterminate sentence being the most appropriate since it does not concede of determinate sentence by security rate or severity, but creates larger motivation component for an early release, revision of values and intro personal changes of the prisoner while determinate sentence leaves the inmate without such chance. Prisoners see benefits from productive work and good behavior in prison. Taking into account the increasing prison population, indeterminate sentence is much more effective and allows saving resources, which are not sufficient at the moment. According to McLeod (2011), Between 2009 and 2010, at least 40 states made cuts to the general fund expenditures for corrections. They are reducing staff salaries, benefits, or overtime, eliminating prison programs, and making food-service changes. Furthermore, states have been increasingly focused on finding ways to decrease overall prison populations (n.p.).
To summarize, the sentencing is a system of punishment for the crime committed. Its four main goals are the retribution, deterrence, rehabilitation and incapacitation. The global objectives of sentence system are to prevent crimes and to impart the respect of the law. The sentencing affects the state and federal corrections systems through the improvement of laws and criminal sanctions. The sentencing is been carried out through indeterminate and determinate type of sentence. Indeterminate sentence provides that exact term of punishment is not defined and can be established by the judge. Determinate sentence provides certain and defined term of punishment. As indeterminate sentence provides high motivation and aspiration to an early release, and it is considered being more appropriate. The sentence system in the U.S. was formed in the 18th century to maintain law and justice in the country.