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Alternative sentencing is a form of punishment administered to law offenders that do not involve going to prison. In the past, law offenders went to prison because there was no substitute way of punishing offenders accorded by the law. In other countries like Malaysia, the Syariah courts in the country have the jurisdiction to impose punishments up to 3 years imprisonment, six strokes, and an RM5000 fine or a combination of any two or three of the punishments. Alternative sentences cannot be a form of punishment for individuals who have committed serious offenses like acts of terrorism. Alternative sentences can be different based on the type and harshness of the crime, the effect of the crime on the victims, the age of the defendant, the defendants’ criminal history, and the defendants’ remorse, and it is decided upon by the judge. Alternative sentencing administration can be in different ways, for example, by paying fines, community service, probation, rehabilitation, house arrest while being monitored electronically, work release, restitution, arrangements where one is supposed to go to jail over the weekend, and jail diversion. The research paper focuses on alternative sentences as a substitute form of punishment for law offenders.
Fines are alternative sentencing rendered by the judge hearing a particular case. Fines are paid directly to the government and are determined based on the severity of a crime committed and the circumstances attributing to the crime. An individual is required to pay a fine for minor crimes like failure to pay for a parking ticket, drunk driving, among many other minor offenses. A judge can rule that a perpetrator should pay a fine even though the crime committed did not involve the loss of money. The punishment serves as a warning and a constant reminder to the perpetrator to make them avoid committing the same mistake the next time.
Community service is the second type of alternative sentence that entails assigning an individual, hours to do unpaid work in the community. The court determines the hours that one is to do the community service, and it is under supervision. The hours are flexible and can allow one to work and still do community service. One has the liberty to either serve their community service hours once or distribute the hours equally over some time according to their schedule. In a situation, an individual fails to complete their hours, the court has powers to jail them or issue a matching punishment. Community service plays a significant role in society since it serves numerous purposes and aims such as diversion from custody, reduced costs to the criminal justice system, reparation and rehabilitation, and because it is providing tangible benefits for the community.
Probation is a third way of punishment. An individual on probation is allowed to coexist in society with every other person, but their freedom has some restrictions. The individual has a set of conditions given to them to serve as a reference point, and if they violate them, they can serve time in jail. The court determines the probation conditions based on the crime committed and in a discrete manner. Probation is an option if the individual commits an offense for the first time or if the individual is not a threat to society.
Rehabilitation and pretrial diversion are the fourth modes of punishment rendered to individuals who are considered unfit medically in most cases when they committed an offense. Over the years, research indicates that persons with serious mental illnesses (SMI) are involved in the criminal justice system at a disproportionately higher rate than the general population. The conditions for this sentencing require one to undergo medical tests to prove their mental instability. The individual is institutionalized and receives medical attention. The individual can escape conviction upon recovery offenders given this form of punishment range from people with mental illnesses like schizophrenia, psychological conditions, and even people with psychiatric issues. The jail diversion gives the perpetrator a chance to allow them to be able to demonstrate that they are of good behavior when in their right mind. Substance abusers are given a chance to detox in a suitable environment. Offenders with any mental condition are given treatment to cub the situation. The offender is required to stay clear of any wrongdoings, and they also have to undergo counseling.
House arrest is the fifth mode, and it involves an individual being allowed to go back to their house on the condition that the authority monitors them. The individual had limited freedom within the period, and in most cases, the authority uses an electronically controlled anklet. The anklet transmits signals showing the exact location of the individual at every time. A set of conditions also determine if an individual can be under house arrest. The person typically has a responsible individual assigned to them who will be held accountable in a situation they decide to escape house arrest. Young adults and juveniles are the ones who are mostly supervised by the responsible adult. Besides, the analysis also shows that the period of house arrest has the potential to be a period of positive changes, and can help in successful rehabilitation.
Work release is the sixth form that applies in a situation where one commits less severe offenses. The individual under work release is allowed to go to work in the regular hours to either support their families, but at the end of the day, and they spend their nights in custody. The individual has to have a stable job. An individual who is already serving their sentence is eligible for a work release if they secure employment within the duration they are in custody. They have restricted freedom, and in most scenarios, they are only allowed to visit their workplace and no other place. Violation of this can result in the court reviewing the sentence and administering a suitable sentence.
Moreover, work release was proven advantageous by research done in Minnesota between 2007 and 2010 by producing an estimated cost avoidance benefit of $1.25 million.
Restitution is the seventh form, and this involves the perpetrator paying fee to the affected individual. The payment of the money is to the victim of the crime, and at no point should it be paid the government. The money is for compensating the individual so that they can return to the state they were before the crime. Crimes that attract restitution are minor such as one destroying another person’s property, and the cost of the damage influences the payment.
Weekend imprisonment is the eighth form of alternative sentencing. It entails an individual serving their prison term during the weekend when they are free and are not at work. An individual considered for this punishment at times has a family that they have to take care of, and a has a job, individuals with sick or special needs family members. In some cases, people who are not in a position to pay restitution have the weekend imprisonment option so that they can work during the week to raise the money that they will pay the affected party in the crime committed. Once they pay the money, they are allowed back into society, having served their sentence and paid the affected person.
Alternative sentencing has several advantages. Counseling, for instance, enables an individual to learn a better and alternative way to deal with a situation, and this much helps in decision making soon. Work release is advantageous since it helps one integrate easily in society, and a prisoner can use the money earned to change their living conditions upon release. It also teaches them a lesson about how limited freedom is not a good option; thus, they can value their freedom and coexist with others without doing wrong. Jail diversion can help an individual get the proper treatment that they will not have received in a case where they are convicted to serve a prison term without proper evaluation. Also, paying fines and restitution can prevent people who have done minor offenses from being convicted like individuals who have done significant crimes like human trafficking. However, research indicates that the youngest and oldest offenders benefit the most, while adults face the harshest consequences and are less likely to consideration of alternative sentencing options, and this can seem to be biased.
In conclusion, alternative sentencing is a lenient way of punishing an individual without necessarily going to prison. Alternatives to incarceration are considered appropriate sentences for nonviolent and nonserious offenders. They give room for the possibility that one is not able to make the right judgments in a situation whereby they are under the influence of drugs and also suffer from a mental condition. It allows minor offender to serve their punishment in less hostile conditions. It allows individuals to serve the community, and the money paid in the form of fines helps in the betterment of society, the money can pay salaries of civil servants and even for the renovation of government institutions. It gives an individual the benefit of the doubt, and in a situation where they regret the crime done, the punishment rendered is lenient yet severe so that they can avoid committing the same crime. They also prevent violence and help the community. It is easy to conclude that alternative sentencing is a humane way of convicting criminals of offenses committed.
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