The Role of the Judge

The role of the judge within the probation system is to act as oversight towards individual cases. It starts with the sentencing. The judge can only sentence on terms that are authorized by statue, that it is not discriminatory and that it draws distinctions on sentencing schemes. For those whose cases can fall under probationary status, the probation office will present the judge with background of the offender, including family, psychological profile, education and criminal record.

Families of the victim can also speak at court about the crime committed by the offender or other aspects of the crime committed and how it has affected their family in the form of victim impact statements (Feinman, 2000, p. 326). The judge will then review the report of the probation office, together with the victim impact statements, and will ultimately have to decide within the prescription of the legislature. Depending on the judge’s discretion, first-time offenders may find themselves doing community service or diversion programs.

For those with misdemeanors, probation or probation combined with a reduced jail time is much more common. Probation means meeting requirements, and should the offender fail to meet these requirements or should the offender not finish the probationary period, the judge may order the probation to be suspended, which may have the offender having to serve out the rest of his or her punishment in jail. If the offender meets all the requirements and has served out his probation time, the judge can declare the sentence met, and the offender will then be allowed to be released and reintegrated back with the rest of society.

The role of a judge is crucial. While laws may get in the way of a judge sentencing an offender more fairly (for examples, some states may have laws that dictate that those carrying illegal firearms will automatically get jail time, which leaves many first time offenders with no choice but to be jailed when probation would have been more appropriate), the inflexibility of the judge may also get in the way from getting probation utilized in some cases.

These usually happen in cases where serious and violent crimes have been committed, and the stigma of these crimes usually dictates the sentence, no matter how exceptional the behavior of the offender shows in prison that may show a warrant for the offender to go in intermediate sanction. Intermediate Sanction Intermediate sanction, as mentioned earlier, refers to the method used in most probation processes that combine traditional imprisonment and traditional probation methods.

Intermediate sanction is looked upon favorably by advocates who state that 50% of those imprisoned will likely to be jailed again while those under probation have a high revocation rates due to the inability to meet requirements (Siegel, 2009, p. 542). Many view intermediate sanction as the best way to solve some of the problems caused by the prison system,   and to have an alternative to incarceration should regular probation be revoked but the crime itself not too grievous as too warrant incarceration. For example, would you automatically someone throw someone with a misdemeanor offense in jail due to a revoked probation?

The reasonable answer would be no, but certainly a more stringent punishment would be appropriate. Intermediate sanction, as mentioned earlier, uses several methods to impose stricter conditions of the offender. Combined with jail time, intermediate sanction can also be used for felony offenders. The heightened surveillance on those under intermediate sanction may also discourage those under probation to hidden recidivity. About a 1/4th of those under regular probation have admitted to committing at least one offense and 3/4th admitted to going to at least four offenses (Siegel, 2009, p.382).

Regular probationers who have learned to go around the system may be guarded more closely under intermediate sanctions. Intermediate sanction may prove itself to be a bigger economic gain as it helps limit the use of jail cells to incarcerate offenders. Since intermediate sanction can be used to include a vast number and variety of offenses, it seems unwise for the judicial system to leave the possibilities of a system made up of intermediate sanctions, leaving jail cells to those who are most dangerous to society.