Criminal justice role in sentencing and corrections

Criminal Justice has to contend with conflicting and diverse pulls like budgetary constraints , public safety and need for offender accountability. Meaningful alternatives to the current judicial remedies must be constantly evolved through new statutory sentencing structures ; cost effective strategies must be innovated for correction spending. Felony occurring before 1999 December 31 were tried under Indeterminate sentencing structure. It was so named because felons may be paroled from prison and discharged from supervision prior to serving maximum sentence imposed by Judge.

This Sentence structure is such that the judge may impose sentence for each charge resulting in conviction ; the sentence is for a period of time not exceeding the statutory maximum. The sentence length includes , the Time in Prison + The time on parole. The convict might get credit against the time he has to serve, based on his Parole behavior and duties he discharges in prison. They may be released after they have served 2/3rds of the sentence , unless some infractions of regulations by convict provokes an extension. The Indirect sentence structure allowed judges to

exercise broad discretion over the disposal and duration of the sentences, and so also the Parole Boards, who too held the discretion of release. The system came under fire in mid 70s. A system that limited the discretionary powers was sought. New sentencing guidelines to promote Truth. In. sentencing were tooled;abolition of parole followed and mandatory statutory laws shaped the Determinate sentence policies. The Determinate sentencing structure, also called Truth in sentencing and Bifurcated sentence - as the Judge specified the sentence in two parts, was applied

to all felony committed after 1999 December 31; however, Life sentences, and grave sexual offences and substance absuse cases were not come under this sentence structure. The judge specifies the Term under prison and Term in Community under extended supervision. A Fine may be imposed in addition to, or instead of, Probation. . The Extended Supervision was governed by Intensive Sanctions Programs, which formed part of the Extended Supervision. Sentencing guidelines were made bringing into consideration , the gravity of the offence and the rehabilitation needs of the offender The public safety also had to be kept in consideration.

After his term the convict was transferred to the state correction Institution for evaluation and judging of appropriateness of the sentence. The Intensive Sanctions program was designed to be less costly than imprisonment , and more restrictive than ordinary probation . It had component phases, which were Intensive and well structured, and customized to the offence and offender . This took care of aspects like public safety, accountability by repeat offender (who otherwise would be transported to prisons at great cost to the state, only to be released , and again return) and avoided prison over crowding.

A judicial committee review made in Wisconsin disclosed that the number of offenders in the program decreased from 1628 in the community in 97 to 5 in 2006. Probation: When a person is convicted of crime, the court sanctions probation while it imposes, or, withholds a sentence ; at the same time it stays the execution. The convicted Felon is placed on Probation under the Department of Probation. But offences like Life sentene, Repeat and serious sexual offences, violent crimes and 2nd degree , intentional murders are not eligible for probation. The court may also add as part of probation,

Community service programs . The convicts are required to do charitable Forms of services or work for some non profit Agencies in the sentencing jurisdiction . If the offender is alcoholic, a de addiction program may also be added. The Probationer has to express willingness to the program. He would be placed under monitoring. If he violates any condition of the program , the department of correction initiates the process for revocation of the Probation, when he would be brought to the court for sentencing if it had been withheld, or for being ordered to prison if sentence had been imposed.

He must meet such conditions as meeting the probation officer regularly. Community Service is seen as an Alternative sentencing , in lieu of other Judicial remedies. It is a technique to reform transgressors; the philosophy of this alternate sentencing is that it provides service that benefits community in a constructive way. Even while punishing the offender. It saves the cost of incarceration and also introduces ethical ideas into the values of the offender . In US the sheriff or the police may supervise the offender while in community community, and the hours of community service should

not exceed the reasonable limit fixed for the offence. Sometimes the offender himself chooses his community and area of service, and it is documented by an Agency of good credit. Fines: The Criminal Justice Act of 1985 introduced Judicial remedies like Reparation and restitution, in lieu of penalties. Principles governing FINE were also contained in this. Of these Fine is the most commonly imposed penalty by the court. Its advantage is its flexibility, as it could be adjusted to fit the gravity and means of of the offender. Unlike imprisonment and community based services, it fetches Revenue for the state and

does not disrupt the life of the offender, and hence may be considered more humane. A judge may also require the offender to pay restitution to the victim ,if the victim is eligible for compensation. , or make a compensation for a crime prevention fund. A Fine may be reduced in exchange for fixed hrs of community service. Fine might also take the form of reparation as the crime is assumed to be against the society as well as the victim. Fines are criticized because , while fixing the fine with Means as criteria , the same culpability gets differently fined for two offenders. A ready beckoner of cross grid of

culpability against affordability is also recommended , but here, the poverty of the offender becomes a mitigating circumstance, and at the same time , the the same penalty may not prove to be a deterrant for the wealthy offender, and he cannot be fined more as the amount will be fixed according to gravity. The intention is to strip the Offender of his resources to do repeated crime, but at the same time a punitive fine imposing financial hardships might be just as oppressive and harsh as imprisonment. Reclassification of a range of less serious offences a Infringement has lately emerged as

a cost effective way to deal with less serious offences as they don’t require formal prosecution. Forfeiture: Forfeiture is seizure of property on suspicion of offence, and it entails forfeiture to government without prosecution. Seen as legacy of British colonialism, many states in the US do not admit all of the statutes. The Congress and state legislatures maintain statutes allowing law enforcement to seize property on suspicion of certain criminal activity. The property may thereafter be forfeited to the government upon conviction. In many cases, forfeiture to the government occurs without criminal

prosecution. But this is not highly in favor. The Forfeiture Act was fully tooled in US in 1970, as the Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. Forfeiture begins after a warrant Is issued by a district court based on a belief that the property was used in a crime ; the basis of the belief may be a hearsay or circumstantial evidence . The property is held by court till the case is resolved ,and the defendant may retrieve the seized property if acquitted. The onus of proof of innocence is on the accused. If he fails to give sufficient evidence for rebuttal of the government's charge that his property was used for

prohibitive activities, by a preponderance of evidence the government wins; the law also allows the enforcing agency to retain a portion of the proceeds of property . The critics of this law point out that this enfeebles the police whose role is to fight crime . They would become financially dependent on the very activity they are supposed to curtail. Police agencies might also end up harming innocent citizens ,or those who are only guilty of minor offences, in their hunt for bounty . But the proponents of the Law only see the benefits that flow into the society from Drug abusers, through forfeitures. They also

point out that this stringent law ensures a safe and decent neighborhood. Racketeering and corrupt Organizations act enacted under the Organized Crime control Act of 1970 brought murder, kidnapping, perjury, extortion arson ,robbery ,bribery ,gambling and repeated narcotic offences as offences deserving property forfeiture for the perpetrator. In 1984 congress added the violation of federal and state obscenity laws to the list. Many legal observes see the forfeiture laws as flagrant violation of several constitutional rights. The federal government seized 531 dollars million in cash and property under the

Forfeiture act and 80 percent of the owners of the seized goods were never charged with a crime. (Thomson Gale. 1998) Split sentence: Judges have the option of placing convicted felons in county jail rather than in state prison up to one year. Judges and prosecutors use Split Sentence to ensure that convicts serve some time in prison at the same time not overcrowding the prisons. District court Judge John Perry originally sponsored this legislation in 1980s . The state’s new prisons had not yet been built and some states like Wyoming were spending huge sums in shipping prisoners of state..

IT cost the counties much more than they could absorb and the state did not reimburse the cost fully. The department of correction spent an average of 45 dollars a day on a jail mate under split sentencing and the county’s cost was 75 dollars . It was on because it gave the felon a dose of confinement and gave the officials a chance at rehabilitation at local level. IT was also the easier transition back to the community. Death penalty cost the state high as constitution- mandated safeguards made the process very expensive. Complex judicious process had to be completed because of the risk of innocents getting punished.

It was argued that Lifer without parole costs 1. 2 million Dollars less and the money saved could be deployed in better policing and public safety, and alcohol treatment programs . 15% of the attorney general’s spending was found to be on death penalty cases. 2 cases, the Greg vs. Georgia and Furman vs. Georgia in 1972 turned people’s focus on death penalty. Justice Potter Stewart , one of the five juries of the Furman vs. Georgia case, forming the majority that declared that death penalty is cruel, dubbed it as inhuman. ; many others concurred with him that there was much arbitrariness and

capriciousness in the conferring of the capital punishment. It was further disclosed that there was a disproportionately greater number of Africans and poorer and socially disadvantaged Americans among those receiving Death sentence. New trial procedures were adapted. Many states re examined the list of crimes inviting death penalty and many of these were struck out of the list. It was made statutory that juries must be given clear guidelines on sentencing. Explicit provisions for what constitute Aggravation and what, mitigation were made . Dual Trials were proposed, one for trying if the offender is guilty

and another if Death was justified. More lawyers specializing in death penalty litigations were asked to empanel the sentencing. Procedural safeguards were put in place in 36 states. Death penalty was halted. The other, lesser offences clubbed usually with the major offence of the felon were told to be examined asto punish ability. Second trial was mandated for mitigating circumstances and prior guilt of the offender given weight age while pronouncing judgement. However Death penalty was not without its proponents who said that there were implicit directives in the constitution (like the 14th amendment) empowering the US laws to give

death penalty. They said that two purposes were fulfilled by Death penalty, namely moral outrage and Retribution. But Pennsylvania mitigated the harshness of death penalty by dividing murder in degrees in 1794. I degree was a capital crime, defined as willful deliberate and premeditated. The rest were2nd degree . This greatly eased the tension. In all, the direction the reforms took was in giving objective and transparent guidelines in sentence structures and limit discretionary powers. ENDS REFERENCE: 1. Christina D Carmichael, WISCONSIN Legislative Fiscal Beareu 2007: Felony Sentencing and Reporting