SOC219: Lecture 6
• Objective of sentencing- incapacitation/ incarcerating- locking up
in an institution
Challenges with the use of incarceration:
o Sentencing long term tends to happen to old age
offenders, or with long history of offenders- age crime
curve climbs during the teenage years and peaks early
20’s and during 30’s crime rate declines consistently. By
the time were imposing a long-term sentence on a person
who is in the 30, they would have eventually declined in
their crime rate naturally. (Most plp stop committing crime
by age 30)
o Frequent offenders- a lot of crime is committed by a small
number of plp so if we incarcerate those small number of
plp then we would see a decline in crime rate. BUT it is
actually that most plp commits an offence at some point in
their life. It’s naïve to believe that it’s only a small number
that actually commits crime.
o We have tools to predict whose likely to commit crime- but
o Act of being incarcerated has criminogenic effect- so more
likely to reoffend if sent to prison than if sent to the
o Implicit logic- make sense that if we lock somebody then
they cant make any offence, but it is expensive, and the
number of challenges we have, it is not easy to estimate
the cost if that offender was out in the community- hard to
make cost benefit analysis
o Changes in incarcerated rates- some areas more and some
o They looked at index crimeDefinition of that crime is
constant, study employed usual factors – age, sex, and
education, what offence. They tried to look at crime rate in
these diff areas with high and low incarceration rate.
o Result no effect in crime rate whether it had high or low
o Does it make sense to continue with high incarceration, if
we already locked up the high crime offenders? SOC219: Lecture 6
o Youth- young plp tend to commit crime in group- so
incarcerating one person in the group is not going to
reduce the crime that other members of the group can
commit unless you catch all of them.
o 62% who were predicted to be high rate offenders turned
out to be not high risk offenders- We’re wrong so were
underlying the logic of why were locking up them in the
o Looked at crime act done by plp released from prison. 30
of them went on to commit serious offence in which 3 were
in prison because they committed a serious offence before.
All of those in prison are those who are more likely to
commit crime- high risk. BUT turns out not true, risk
prediction tools are not good.
o Incapacitation- every single person who goes into custody
will come back out at some point- so we should we
concerned about whether it is likely they will re offend- and
sending them to prison will make them more likely to
o Rehabilitation: can make a person better- change them to
a law- abiding citizen.
• Programs we’re able to link the offender to appropriate
programs. How well can we rehabilitate somebody? IS prison the
right place to rehabilitate somebody.
o i.e. a person who has violet history and during custody
they are going to anger management class. All of your
fellow prison mates are attending the same place.
Teaching them how to deal with anger management in
prison is not that effective.
o Have to wait a long time to get into the program, even
longer than what your sentence is. So should we
sentence someone longer just so they can get that
treatment? WHAT does this do to proportionality of
sentence? Not proportional this way.
• Relying on imprisonment costs a lot of money. SOC219: Lecture 6
Consequences of deterrence, incapacitation:
o Reaffirming to public that criminal law is the main tool to
protect from crime. But we have to member it was only a
crime because someone wrote it down as it is illegal and
only because of that it is crime.
o We have a view that it is the CJS, police, judges, and if they
acted diff, then we can change the crime rate. SO view that
the CJS has failed us.
o I.e. if you want to deter somebody, are you likely to pick a
more severe sentence? If you wanted to rehabilitate
somebody, are you likely to pick a community based
SO no uniform approach in the criminal code- no
guideline in how you’re supposed to think about the
factors, how does the judge go in about picking the
days or number a person is sentenced. NO clear
description in the legislation. So whether you’re
sentenced to custody varied based on which
province you’re from.
Restraint- is it still held up as an ideal of
There are multiple goals of sentencing and some are
contradictory. SO left with the problem of whose
going to sort this out then.
o Problem in determining the purpose of sentence
o No guideline for the range of an offence only a few have
maximum and few have minimum.
o Judges aren’t even provided with enough guideline to
determine an offence
o No guideline in deciding how serious an offence is. i.e
breaking into a home is that more serious than an assault?
How do we decide what’s more serious?
o What type of factors are judges allowed to consider and
are not allowed to consider when deciding a sentence
o How is judge supposed to know when to sentence someone
outside to the community and when to sentence in
• Ideas of sentencing, what theory you impose, how much weight SOC219: Lecture 6
do you give particular factors.
• How do judges sentence differently? They have no info about
how other judges sentenced? They cannot compare their
sentence with other judges. They don’t have a lot of info about
what any body else is doing.
• There’s always going to be differences in how judges come up
with their sentences so no point in getting rid of disparity. BUT
need to Try to get rid of unwarranted disparity.
• Need to look at the victims choices, whether the victim served
any time in presentence, did they plea bargaining, is the
sentence a result of joint submission where crown and counsel
both stand up and agree on a sentence.
• If there is no type of standard, how do you evaluate a sentence?
IF you have no idea of the avg, no standard to compare it to, or
have no idea in the process of coming to the sentence.
• Decisions of court of appeal try to give some help to the decision
• Custody of sentence looks diff across plp and provinces.
• We need to think about the role of the parliament has, should we
leave it to the judge to create how to sentence or should we
leave it to the legislation
• When talking to judgesthey are going to weigh diff, which info
is imp and relevant, they are going to pursue diff purposes of
sentences, and they have no guidelines, so 10 diff judges can all
give diff sentences and they all can be right.
Minnesota, offence history - GRID
• Rather than providing rules to tell judges, they created a table.
They listed diff severity of offences. Judge has to look at what is
the severity of the offence is according to the book. You get a
severity score, and then across the top, they have a criminal
history record score. So they come up with a sentence based on
the two factors.
• Is this overly restricting? Plp are going to be sentenced approx.
the same way; judges have very little range to choose the
sentence. If they want to deviate from that, they are required to SOC219: Lecture 6
• Sexual sentence tends to have a higher sentence and has an
entirely separate grid to deal with sexual crimes.
• Ranges are presumptions, so sentence can change with reasons.
• If the legislations have mandatory minimum, the sentences in
the grid would be the mandatory minimum.
• Group of plp who study sentencing, and think about how to
• By providing guidelines, that would be good enough rather than
• If they look at all offences at the same time, this may result in a
thorough examination, and can end up with a sentence that is
more rational because your looking at the sentence in more
• This way you create a group of plp who understand sentencing,
• Strength of guidelines are they just suggestions or do they
have to abide by the guidelines?
• Issues with guidelines judges don’