Sentencing: The imposition of a criminal sanction by a judicial authority.
Daryl Gates: Police Chief of LA during OJ Trial
Purpose of Criminal Sanctions:
To deter others from committing crimes, to incapacitate a criminal so that he or she cannot commit other
crimes, to serve as retribution for the harm done by the offender, to rehabilitate the offender, and to restore
peace and justice in the community.
Broad: Public Safety. Want to punish those who violate cultural norms for a safer society.
History of Punishments in the US
Fines: Commonly in corporations, white collar.
Philosophy of Criminal Sentencing
Probation can be a condition of prison.
Prison cannot be a condition of probation. Philosophies of Punishments
As a society we believe that offenders need to be punished for their actions. There is still a hope that
offenders may be rehabilitated.
The text states that over a million sentences are handed down annually in the US. See text examples of
How do judges determine the appropriate punishment for a crime? They are guide by law which must
provide the type and range of punishments that are imposed. Ultimately, these laws are passed by
legislators based on public sentiment as to the purposes and effect of various punishments.
Jail/prison time is relatively new concept – historically punishments consisted of fines, ordeals and torture. If
a criminal could not afford to pay a fine they could be sold into economic servitude to work off the fine.
Modern sentencing practices are influenced by five goals
Deterrence—Incentives to not commit crimes.
The philosophy and practices that emphasize making criminal behavior less appealing. What is it going to
take to convince somebody that crime doesn’t pay.
General Deterrence – Based on the premise that people who witness the pain suffered by those who
commit crimes will desire to avoid that pain and will refrain from criminal activity.
Specific Deterrence – Based on the premise that a person is best deterred from committing future crimes by
the specific nature of the punishment. I don’t want to go to jail again, so I’m going to stop stealing.
Deterrence uses punishment as an example to convince people that criminal activity is not worthwhile. It’s
overall goal is crime prevention.
Deterrence comes in two flavors: General Deterrence – to prevent non offenders from committing crime.
Specific Deterrence – prevent offender from reoffending.
The book calls deterrence rational in that it is easily articulated and because I is possible to investigate
objectively the amount of punishment required to deter. Society is not willing to impose strong punishment for relatively minor offenses, e.g. death sentences for
traffic offenses. In contrast, studies indicate that harsh punishments like death sentences for murder, do
not appear to have a strong deterrent affect. Where retribution is oriented to the past, deterrence is aimed
to the prevention of future crimes.
Corporal Punishment: The administration of bodily pain as a form of punishment.
Effective in deterring crime, controversial.
Based on the premise that the only way to prevent criminals from reoffending is to remove them from
Seeks to protect innocent members of society from offenders who might do them harm if they were not
prevented in some way. Mutilation and amputation has been used, both in antiquity and in some present
Also called the “lock ‘em up approach”.
Both retribution and incapacitation are used as justification for imprisonment. Keep in mind that
incapacitation requires only restraint, not punishment. Some proincapacitation reformers are also prison
reformers, trying to make prisons a more pleasant place.
Some alternatives to prison are electronic confinement, biomedical intervention (chemical castration) may
be able to achieve the goals of incapacitation without confinement.
The death penalty is an extreme form of incapacitation.
Based on the premise that criminals should be punished because they deserve it.
Retribution is predicated on a need for vengeance. Most societies punish offenders whenever they can
catch them. Early punishment was swift and immediate., often without the benefit of a trial, and
punishments were extreme.
Just deserts. Offenders are responsible for their crimes and when they are convicted and punished they
have received their just deserts. Current anticrime sentiment has led to some states removing so called
entitlements from prisoners; weight rooms, TV’s, and in some cases, air conditioning. The primary
sentencing tools of the just deserts model are prison and death.
Based on the premise that criminals can be “cured” of their problems and criminality and can be returned to
society. As with deterrence the goal is to reduce the number of future criminal offenses. Where deterrence works
through fear of the law, rehabilitation generally works through education and psychological treatment to
reduce the likelihood of future criminality.
Historically, rehabilitation was generally applied to youth offenders in the hopes of changing their behavior
With recidivism rates at 90% or better public sentiments grew in favor of incapacitation. Generally, criminals
return to their lives of crime upon release from jail.
Restoration (RestitutionPart of every sentence)
A model of deterrence that uses restitution programs, community work programs, victimoffender mediation,
and other strategies to not only rehabilitate the offender but also to address the damage done to the
community and the victim.
Seeks to make the victim whole again. The concept that a crime is a violation of the state still holds true,
but emphasis has been directed towards the victims of crime. Society recognizes that crime is the violation
of one person by another. While retribution may effectively address the concept of the people being the
victim, restoration focuses on the individual.
There are victim assistance initiatives and legislation supporting victim compensation. Each time a person
pays a fine in court, be it for a traffic offense of a more serious crime, a portion of that fine goes to finance
some form of victims assistance program.
Useful Community Service is also a form of restoration
Restitution must be paid before probation can begin.
The Mentally Ill Offender
Insanity Defense – based on the legal principal that defendants lack the necessary mens rea to be held
criminally liable for their actions.
In Colorado children under the age of 10 are granted a similar defense. Persons with diminished IQ’s or
mental retardation also are granted this defense.
Insanity is determined by the jury!
Not guilty by reason of insanity – a verdict by which the jury finds that a defendant committed the crime but
Guilty but mentally ill – the jury finds a defendant mentally ill but sufficiently aware to be morally responsible
for his/her actions.
Fair Sentencing A North Providence woman was sentenced Tuesday to a 45year prison term with 25 year to serve, for the
murder of her newborn infant. Julie Robat was convicted of seconddegree murder last spring. Prosecutors
argued that she should be sentenced to 50 years at the Adult Correctional Institutions, with 30 years to
serve for the murder of her newborn infant.
Factors that Impact Fair Sentencing
4.The defense attorney
6.The presentence investigator
Dictates the outline for all sentencing.
A fair and impartial judge is the cornerstone of justice.
The concern is that election pressures can influence a judge’s decisions. One study found that all judges
increase their sentences while a reelection nears. Another concern is the cost of judicial elections are so
high that highly qualified candidates may be eliminated by candidates that have fewer qualifications but
more money to campaign. Another issue is that large campaign donors may “buy” special consideration
should they appear before the judge.
A case indicated the accused were not guilty thanks to DNA evidence, and Michael B. Nifong (prosecutor)
chose to ignore the information. Prosecutors are required to hand over any and all evidence that could
possibly help defense. Defense does not have to turn over anything to prosecution.