Criminal Sentencing

3718 Words Mar 11th, 2011 15 Pages
Criminal Sentencing Decisions within the American Judicial System
Abstract
A major issue in criminal justice is sentencing. America’s court system has struggled to balance competing goals and policies in regards to criminal sentencing. This paper explores the ideas behind changes made to the sentencing policies with the United States judicial system. It begins with an overview of the goals behind criminal sentencing. This paper concludes with a discussion on the current status and disparities involving criminal sentencing.

Criminal Sentencing
In The Limits of Criminal Sanction, Herbert Packer said that criminal punishment should serve two purposes; “deserved infliction of suffering on evil doers” and “the prevention of crime”
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Incapacitation is another goal behind criminal sentencing. The idea is simple. By incapacitating someone (keeping them in prison) they will no longer be able to commit crimes against society. Long prison sentences are not the only means of incapacitating someone. Incapacitation looks at reducing the offender’s ability and opportunity to commit future crimes. This can be done through intensive supervision, electronic monitoring, and even the requirement to register as a sex offender can be seen as incapacitating. Incapacitation assumes that most criminals will continue to commit crimes if they are not restrained.
Another goal of criminal sentencing is to rehabilitate. “Rehabilitation is a programmed effort to alter the attitudes and behaviors of inmates and improve their likelihood of becoming law-abiding citizens” (Seiter, 2008, p. 32). Rehabilitation assumes that criminals have underlying problems that are the cause of their criminality and that if these causes are treated, the offender can return to society and possibly provide some type of restitution for the victims of their crimes.
Restitution is also a goal of criminal sentencing. Many sentences with or without confinement also involve some type of compensation, either in fines paid to the government or in damages paid to the
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