History of Determinate Sentencing

ne of the reasons for prison overcrowding and their failure to prevent crime and reintegrate former convicts into the society lies in inefficient sentencing practices. Due to every state having its own jurisdictions and policies in regards to sentencing, there is more than a single sentencing model practiced in the US. (Zhang, Zhang, & Vaughn, 2009). The purpose of this paper is to prove that in the case with non-violent crimes, determinate sentencing does not reduce crime, encourages social isolation upon release, increases chances of the transformation of a into a mature criminal, and causes overcrowding in prisons.

Determinate Sentencing

Modern law dictionaries define a determinate prison sentence as a sentence that is defined in a code of law and cannot be discretionarily changed by the judge, the parole board, or any government agency based on any kind of mitigating circumstances. In modern US practice, minimum determinate sentences exist for certain crimes such as murder, rape, and other kinds of criminal activities deemed dangerous to the society.

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History of Determinate Sentencing
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Historically, judicial systems around the world practiced a raw form of indeterminate sentencing, with judges having over what punishment a criminal should suffer for their crimes. This was motivated by the fact that early states and governments lacked a comprehensive code of law. This practice, however, entailed a great potential for corruption and abuse, as some criminals were able to use their money and connections in order to mitigate punishment, while the rest were left to for even minor offenses. Determinate sentencing was first theorized in the late 18th century by Cesare Bonesana-Beccaria an Italian criminologist and one of the great philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment (Schmalleger& Smykla, 2011).

Beccaria argued that in order for a judicial system to be effective in deterring potential crimes from happening, the punishment should be certain, swift, and severe (Schmalleger& Smykla, 2011). He advocated determinate sentencing as a fair justice system, as it would not discriminate between criminals based on their social stature, wealth, connection, and color punishment for a particular crime were to be one for all.

In the US, gradual changes from indeterminate sentencing with shorter sentences for lesser crimes towards longer sentences have started in the mid-1980s, four years after the announcement of President Nixons War on Drugs, as a deterrent for future crime. Although there was no determinate sentencing for drug-related crimes, such as use and distribution of drugs, the prosecutors were required to artificially push for , which, in turn, became the new standard for mandatory-minimum sentencing. As Attorney General Eric Holder stated, For years prior to this administration, federal prosecutors were not only encouraged-but-required- to always seek the most severe prison sentence possible for all drug cases, no matter the relative risk they posed to public safety. (DOJ, 2015, para. 3).

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