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Alternative sentencing includes all the different types of punishment that a court can impose on an accused after he is found to have committed a crime other than jail time or the death penalty. These sentences offer the defendant the chance to avoid sentences that could ruin their life. It does not apply for everyone only those who do not have a record of prior convictions and it depends on the type of crime deemed to have been committed by the suspect. Courts offer a type of leniency through this practice and it can become a positive impact on an offender who feels like he has been given a second chance. It mostly happens to older and younger offenders. The alternative sentence is also called a community sentence or non-custodial sentence that is it seeks to reform the defendant and put right what he has done. This type of sentencing includes various types which include fines, community service, an apology to the plaintiff, suspended sentence, probation, curfew, the judge can order restitution among others. This paper will discuss non-custodial sentencing that is it’s types, advantages, and disadvantages.
Firstly, fines in form of money are a common type of non-custodial sentencing. It is applied in minor cases for example speeding and parking tickets. However, monetary fines are applied in criminal cases as an additional punishment but this does not count for an alternative punishment.
Secondly, judges can also order restitution which means that the accused will pay monetary compensation but unlike fines that go to the government, the money is paid to the plaintiff for the damages that the offender has caused. These damages may include medical expenses incurred by the complainant or property damages.
Thirdly, judges can order defendants to do community service. It may include cleaning up streets and highways. It can be a negotiated specific form of service for example a person caught speeding and drunk driving can be asked to lecture young people in the community on the dangers of speeding and drunk driving. Moreover, another type of community sentencing is a suspended sentence where the judge reads out a sentence but does not enforce it. This is mostly done to first-time offenders and people who have committed crimes that are not serious. In some cases, conditions are imposed along with these for example completing a substance abuse program.
Furthermore, probations can be another form of non-custodial sentencing. They represent options that the accused must fulfill certain conditions that have been imposed or risk going to jail when they act contrary to the conditions. These conditions may be negotiated between defense lawyers and prosecutors. In addition, another form of this sentencing includes specific court orders and injunctions. In these directions are given a particular thing such as the defendant should not drink alcohol or should observe a one-meter distance from a particular person or place. Lastly, other types of this form of sentencing includes house arrest and curfews. In house arrest, the court may direct a person to be home without leaving for a specified duration of time which may be months or years. In curfews, the accused is ordered to be home at a particular time for example six o’clock in the evening. Restorative is a another form of this sentencing.
Non-custodial sentencing has a some advantages. Firstly, it reduces the cost incurred by the government in reforming criminals. Prisons are expensive that is the government provides housing, food for the offenders, and security through wardens who guard the accused people. Governments have failed to manage them leading to strain of resources and overcrowding of the few prisons available. Taxpayers’ money can be used for better use by providing essential services like health, food security, and education to citizens. Secondly, it enhances the rehabilitation of criminals because it assists offenders to work on themselves through counseling programs for example substance abuse programs. They are able to change their bad habits while still changing the community for the better through community service initiatives like cleaning up streets and offering to teach young people in their area on various topics.
Thirdly, it is effective in reducing repeated offending by the accused. In 2012, 25 percent of those who got out of prison were reconvicted. These statistics show that prison sometimes does not reform or rehabilitate an individual, they end up committing an offense which leads them to have cycles of going in and out of prison. It leads to a situation of criminals learning from other criminals whereas when they do community service and other alternative sentences they are able to learn from the good people in society, for example, their supervisors who show them the way. Moreover, alternative sentencing still incorporates punishment and justice. It gives victims a sense of justice by for example being paid damages and gives punishment to accused by depriving them their freedom. Also, it enables children of incarcerated mothers to be taken care of and studies have shown they behave better when their mothers are around. It improves family bonds and parenting.
Community sentencing has some disadvantages. Firstly, many victims may feel that the accused did not adequate punishment for what he did to them. This is because the victim feels that what the defendant did caused a lot of pain as opposed to how the judge feels about the offense. Secondly, offenders may fail to do their other work because they have to cater to their sentences. For example, a student who has been sentenced for community service may not be able to have the time he needs to focus on his schoolwork. These sentences may be counter-productive because their work is to enable the accused be punished but be able to continue his work. House arrest may make a person not able to pay for his bills so this sentencing can be expensive to the accused. Thirdly, it sends offenders back to the public to rehabilitate themselves this exposure may lead to social stigma by the general public. The negative perception that an offender gets from the public may lower his sense of morale and self-esteem. This hinders them from undergoing the rehabilitation effectively.
In conclusion, non-custodial sentencing can do a lot of good for society by reforming offenders but as well being lenient on them. It offers solutions to the prison crisis that most countries are facing which is because of overcrowding. The justice systems should use both alternative sentencing and strict measures like imprisonment to increase efficiency so that the minor offenses are handled by the alternative sentencing and major offenses are handled by imprisonment. Some are proposing alternative sentencing for serious offenders. Education should also be enhanced to enable minor offenders to know the choices they can get for their actions.
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