Sentencing happens when the judge finds the defendant guilty after all the facts have been read out. However, sentencing might occur immediately after finding guilt, or it might take place later if the defendant case is adjourned. In some circumstances, the judge has the capability to reduce or increase a sentence on the basis of specific factors regarding the defendant and crime. Various sentencing options are available, ranging from incarceration in prison to the restitution and fines. Today various sentencing reforms have been instigated, leading to numerous legal approaches to sentencing in the US. This paper will compare two types of sentencing, which is indeterminate and determinate sentencing.
Indeterminate sentencing is a system whereby each crime has a maximum and minimum period to function as a punishment for criminals, depending on the crime nature (Ashworth, 2010). Judges are allowed to choose a number of options that include parole boards who decide the releasing dates, incarceration, probation, and fines (Seiter, 2008). Nonetheless, various debates regarding indeterminate sentencing system have emerged, thus resulting in various pros and cons.
Indeterminate sentencing has a number of advantages. One of them includes possible early release (Tonry, 2006). In indeterminate sentencing, the behavior of the criminal matters a lot (Ashworth, 2010). Prison officials favor indeterminate sentencing since it shows to offenders that with a good behavior they can be acknowledged whereas a bad behavior leads to the punishment (Seiter, 2008). Following a consistent show of good behavior, the criminal fits for a possible early release, and hence lives as a free person (Tonry, 2006). Another pro of indeterminate sentencing is that it rehabilitates offenders. It is the main role of indeterminate system (Tonry, 2006). Considering that every offender has their various needs to be different, the objective of the system is to entirely restore criminals back into the society (Ashworth, 2010). A fact that everything counts is another pro of indeterminate sentencing. Here not only the crime is considered, but everything so as to determine the offender’s sentence (Seiter, 2008). For instance, the offender’s conduct and history in prison help determine if the criminal deserves freedom or not in rehabilitation efforts (Seiter, 2008). Therefore, the offender will think of their behavior and begin to conduct themselves appropriately in the society since everyone treasures freedom.
On the other hand, indeterminate sentencing has its cons such as the system manipulation and parole board having too much power (Ashworth, 2010). As a disadvantage, a criminal with a proper knowledge on this type of sentencing can acquire freedom through pure manipulation of the system (Ashworth, 2010). For instance, the offender with a proper understanding on how indeterminate sentencing works will behave properly in jail to show that he/she is willing to be an upright citizen in order to acquire an early release (Tonry, 2006). Thus, if the whole act was a fake, the early release will return a criminal back to the society. Another con is parole boards having too much power (Ashworth, 2010). Indeterminate sentencing places a lot of power on the parole board, which can result in discriminatory decision (Seiter, 2008). From past experience, minorities were given tougher decisions, compared to non-minorities. Thus, connections play a major part in the decisions the parole boards made (Tonry, 2006).
The examples of the indeterminate sentencing can be seen in the case of baby P, a 17-month-old English boy, who died in London in 2007 after being nursed fifty injuries for more than eight months (Ashworth, 2010). In this case after P’s mother pleaded guilty, her boyfriend was charged with causing/allowing death of the baby along with the rape of a two-year-old girl, thus receiving a life sentence with a minimum of twenty years (Ashworth, 2010). Nevertheless, he just served ten years alongside twelve years before being qualified for release.
Another example is the case of baby P’s mother. Since she pleaded guilty, she was sentenced to ten years with obligatory serving at least five years before considering a parole (Ashworth, 2010). In this case, the judge told the offenders they represented a particular risk to children.
In its turn, determinate sentencing is a ruling of confinement for a given time, specified by law (Seiter, 2008). The sentence time is not negotiable. The convicted individual cannot serve less than the determinate sentence, but might serve beyond (Seiter, 2008). At the time when the sentence is imposed, its actual limits are determined.
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Determinate sentencing has a great deal of advantages. To begin with, it is not biased (Ashworth, 2010). The standard verdict is handed down despite an individual’s religion, race, or status. There is no question of whether a judge favors someone or not (Tonry, 2006). Also, there are no variables that change the sentencing procedures for convictions, and offender, going to the trial, will know immediately what their outcome will be in case he/she pleads guilty or is found guilty (Tonry, 2006). Therefore, eliminating the anxiety between sentencing and conviction allows the court to proceed faster. Another advantage is that the determinate sentencing acts as a warning since the consequences of committing crimes are of common knowledge (Seiter, 2008). Thus, the awareness of penalties makes individuals consider following the law instead of breaking it.
Nevertheless, determinate sentencing has some cons. To begin with, complex laws make this kind of sentencing difficult to comprehend, resulting in judge making errors such as imposing wrong penalties (Ashworth, 2010). Also, determinate sentencing is costly (Tonry, 2006). It is expensive to host a prisoner for a year since the required expenses exceeds an average household. Another con of determinate sentencing is that there is no flexibility to punishment (Seiter, 2008). Whenever an individual commits a crime without their knowledge, the penalty remains the same as that for the individual, committing the crime intentionally.