Alternative sentencing makes way for committers of minor crimes and those with no criminal records to transform and comply with varied ethical standards as laid out by the state. With enhanced supervision as an alternative to incarceration, court administrators are involved in monitoring activities such as substance abuse treatment, random drug testing and community services performed by the offenders. The probation officers have to work closely with the Office of Community Corrections to ensure that the benchmarks set by the judges are met and that the offenders are able to contribute to long term growth and stability of the community. The person who qualifies for an alternative sentencing needs to be identified as moderate to high risks of re-offending and be able to reform according to the expectations of the judges and the probation officers. While the aim of the courts is to ensure fair administration of justice, it is imperative that the defendants be individuals with no criminal records and ones that have committed minor offences since severe crimes cannot be accorded alternative sentencing.
Different forms of alternative sentencing
Sentences for a criminal conviction takes various forms such that conviction does not necessarily have to lead to the accused facing a jail term. The intentions of such alternatives is to give the defendants some form of restorative justice, transform them into useful members of the community and prevent incarceration as a way of promoting a just society. There is need to reduce prison populations by designing alternative sentencing for offences that are minor and where offenders are unlikely to cause more problems to the society when released. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has been keen on promoting reforms in ways that consider aspects such as the cost of imprisonment, the health consequences of imprisonment, human rights considerations and the social impacts caused by incarceration.
The fact is that depending on the nature of the case, there could be several alternatives including suspension of the sentence, probation, community services, fines and deferred adjudication. However, it is evident that cases vary in their gravity such that it becomes hard for the judges to determine whether an offender qualifies for an alternative sentencing. It is appropriate that court administrators be able to identify the situations that call for determinate prison sentences. Besides the determinate sentences where there is a fixed term sentence, the state laws has an option that requires a minimum or a maximum incarceration period be determined by judges. The implication is that judges need to have the wisdom to be able to impose the options based on factors such as the gravity of the crime, the criminal history of the defendants, show of remorse from the defendant and the age of the offenders. There are therefore various types of alternative sentencing that are discussed in the essay. The judges could decide to rely on the concept of suspended sentences where the judges decides not to institute the sentence. Crimes that are not serious and cases involving first time offenders are to a larger extent considered among the suspended sentences.
The defendant is however expected to fulfil the conditions laid out in the suspension since the judge only holds off from imposing the punishment but could still go ahead to carry out the sentence in case the defendant fails to show compliance to the conditions laid out. The conditions to be utilized when suspending a sentence include; instructing the defendants to be enrolled in a substance abuse program in case the case relates to substance abuse.
Such alternatives could be similar to the situation where the judges decide on deferred adjudication where charges are dismissed upon compliance to particular conditions laid out for the offender. The prosecutor is keen on monitoring the behavior of persons offered alternative sentencing and be able to notify the court of any improvement to determine whether the defendants behaved responsibly during the deferred adjudication period. The defendants in such cases have to prove that they have the capacity to behave responsibly when their sentence is withdrawn. The other consideration is for the judges to consider putting the defendant on probation whenever the latter is released back to the society but with restrictions imposed on how they ought to behave while in the community. The freedom to be enjoyed by the defendants while in the society is restricted unlike the normal people with no criminal records. However, not everyone can be accorded probation since judges have to be careful in assessing the nature of the case and the criminal records of the defendants. Probation in this case is only to be granted to the first time offenders depending on the severity of the crime and low risk offenders whose release may not pose threat to the well-being of the society. The courts have the ultimate discretion when putting defendants on probation such that there are limitations on when and the circumstances that could lead to probation being imposed on a defendant.
Offenders put on probation are expected to comply with the given set of conditions that limit them from having a normal life. The conditions in this case include the need to obey all laws including those that involve petty offences, report to the probation officer at the required time intervals, and submit testing results pertaining to use of substances such as alcohol and refrain from travelling outside the area of jurisdiction as stipulated by the judges.
Fines are also common forms of alternatives to sentencing for criminals such as traffic offenders while those convicted of serious crimes may also have to pay fines depending on the nature of the offense. To compensate the state for the offense and prevent future crimes, it is appropriate that the court administrators rely on fines as a way of alternative sentencing. Community services are also necessary in the event where alternative sentencing is to be used. The defendant in this case may be required to perform certain tasks on behalf of the community members while in most cases required to report on their compliance to the relevant authority. The implication is that the community is able to benefit from the tasks performed while the offender is given less punishment as a way of shifting from incarceration. It is the belief of the court administrators that the defendant will learn from the services offered by the latter to the community and hence improve their behavior.
Programs involved in the alternative sentencing unit
The alternative sentencing unit at the courts need to have structures that are followed to ensure effectiveness of the administrative procedures involved. Electronic monitoring, continuous substance abuse monitoring, pre-trial and reporting programs are among the activities involved in the alternative sentencing. With the electronic monitoring, it is possible to electronically check on compliance of the offenders to ensure they adopt desirable behavior according to the legal requirements. The offenders are required to meet the strict eligibility criteria if they are to convince the judges that they have reformed and hence no need for further sanctions to be imposed on them. With the pre-trial services, the prosecution team undertakes the responsibility of investigating the defendants to determine their qualification for an alternative sentencing.
While it is imperative to consider alternative sentencing as an option to reduce congestion in the prisons, it is also wise that the actions of defendants be investigated with every detail of the findings provided to the court. It is only through accurate facts on the behavior of the defendants serving alternative sentences that the courts are likely to reduce incidences where defendants go ahead to commit other crimes in the society after their release. While under the alternative sentencing, it is appropriate that the court administrators led by the probation officer be keen on assessing the behavior of defendants in terms of compliance with regular reporting as required by the law. For offenders involved in substance abuse, the court administrators need to take the initiative to monitor and regularly test the defendants’ compliance with the requirement that they shift from their substance abuse behavior. Non-compliance with the stipulations set by the court need to be reported to the judges who then make the decision to consider severe punishment.
Reasons for alternative sentencing
Many prisoners are believed to have raised their concern on the fact that the prison system exposes them to inhuman conditions. This implies that even in the case where the prison administration may undertake the initiative to enforce and encourage prisoners to receive counselling session, such actions have little effect on the objective of reforming prisoners considering the difficult conditions in the prisons. The implication of this is that court administrators have to look for ways on how the voices of defendants could be addressed by assessing the nature of cases and considering alternative sentencing for offenders whose behavior could be restored if restorative or transformative initiatives are involved in behavioral change.
While those incarcerated could have been the bread winner for their families, it is appropriate that the prosecutors and judges consider reducing the cycle of poverty for the families of the offenders who prove the ability to abide by the law when released. Mass incarceration has the adverse effects of reducing the economic stability of families which in turn increases dependence on the state and other members of the family who may be working. Those incarcerated have a difficult time changing for the better when they are released leading to the likelihood of re-arrest which in turn adds to the burden of the tax payers. To reduce the poverty rates for the families of the jailed offenders, it is imperative that the court administrators consider the severity of crime and consider ways through which they could allow for admission of offenders into facilities. Such actions are meant to change the undesirable behavior while looking for other ways to deal with cases that do not pose danger to the society and which if given alternative sentencing could lead to positive outcomes from the defendants.
Penal situations are also attributed to deteriorating of the health conditions of inmates who enter such facilities with poor health conditions. The fact that the conditions of released inmates may pose a threat to public health means that court administrators have to consider ways through which alternative sentencing could be utilized. Preventing rising cases of chronic illness such as HIV and tuberculosis as well as protecting the society from substance abuse are among the critical aspects that have to be considered before concluding cases. The fact is that to a larger extent, alternatives to incarceration brings more benefits to the society compared to imprisonment. Alternative sentencing has several benefits compared to jailing of offenders while it it evident that a person put on alternative sentencing has committed lesser offences, it is also imperative to contemplate the fact that such individuals are able to keep their jobs. Alternative sentencing improves the way court administrators operate since they help the courts to save on cost of operations while at the same time ensuring that the court proceedings are fair. A system that allows for elements such as establishment of a drug court leads to a more reasonable way on how offences are tasted. The fact is that such systems are designed to reform and improve the behavior of individuals and promote better results that when relying on prisons where the defendants are eliminated from their communities and put in an isolated place.
With enhanced supervision as an alternative to incarceration, court administrators need to be involved in monitoring activities including substance abuse treatment, random drug testing and community services performed by the offenders. The probation officers have to work closely with the Office of Community Corrections to ensure that the benchmarks set by the judge are met and that the offenders are able to contribute to long term growth and stability of the community. Non-compliance with the stipulations set by the court need to be reported to the judges who then make the decision to consider severe punishment. Electronic monitoring, continuous substance abuse monitoring, pre-trial and reporting programs are among the activities involved in the alternative sentencing. With the actions identified, it is possible to check on compliance of the offenders to ensure they adopt desirable behavior according to the legal requirements. The offenders are required to meet the strict eligibility criteria of they are to convince the judges that they have reformed and hence no need for further sanctions to be imposed on them.
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