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Sentencing Philosophy and the Central Purpose of Criminal Punishment
In the criminal justice system, sentencing signifies the conclusion to a court process. A sentence is passed by a judge or jury after a court process has determined that a defendant is guilty of the crime placed against him or her. Sentencing is controversial when viewed from a philosophical perspective as it presents no real winners and everyone seems to be a looser in one way or another (Templeton & Hartnagel, 2012). Sentencing in essence is the society’s means with which to accord justice to both the oppressed (victim) and oppressor (defendant). This paper seeks to describe sentencing philosophies and the core purpose of criminal punishment as well as discus the sentencing philosophy of a renowned judge.
Sentencing refers to the imposition of a mode of punishment. Sentencings impose penalties that vary with the degree of a criminal offence relative to prescribed laws and rules. These vary widely from small monitory fines to community service to the death penalty. Sentencing philosophy on the other hand refers to the rationale behind a chosen purpose towards according court sentences (Templeton & Hartnagel, 2012). Sentencing philosophy determines why people who commit crimes are punished and more so justify the purpose for imposing a prescribed punishment to a member of society.
In every society there are rules and laws formulated by societal members in an effort to maintain order. As such, most members of a society contend to the fact that there should be strong social institutions which provide legal mechanisms and instruments to ensure criminals face the consequences for criminal conduct. This implies that in every society, criminal sentencing should have a central purpose.
Different societies adopt different central reasons for imposing penalties on other members of the same society. These reasons tend to vary with the crime (Cullen & Gilbert, 2013). The purpose of punishment is ether for revenge/retribution, incapacitation, deterrence or rehabilitation.
In societies which value law and order, the commission or omission of a criminal act not only hurts an individual victim but also hurt such societies. Such crimes often push a society to call for revenge and as such sentencing in such a case is primarily to satisfy the call of the society for justice as well as the individual victim (Cullen & Gilbert, 2013).
Deterrence as a central purpose of crime punishment is aimed at preventing a convicted criminal from repeating a similar act in future (Cullen & Gilbert, 2013). Deterrence as a central theme for punishment is also meant to ensure that other members of society do not contemplate committing similar crimes.
Incapacitation as a central purpose for criminal punishment is generally prescribed for serious crimes. In this case, the criminal is handed down long sentences which limit the possibility of the commission of such an act by the same individual (Cullen & Gilbert, 2013).
Criminal punishment is also meant to ensure that members of society are successfully rehabilitated into the community (Cullen & Gilbert, 2013). While serving sentences, the society hopes that a convicted individual will become aware of his actions repent and work towards gaining back the trust of the society.
With reference to an article posted on the ABA Journal website, Judge Michael Risinger from Illinois described his sentencing philosophy (Neil, 2013). Though this was harshly reprimanded by Chief Judge Michael Brandt, it sheds light to what sentencing philosophy entails. Judge Risinger pointed out that young African Americans are accorded criminal punishment breaks on merit. By having the right attitude and dressing code, Judge Risinger thus accords criminals lesser punishment (Neil, 2013).
Cullen, F. T., & Gilbert, K. E. (2013). Reaffirming rehabilitation. Amsterdam, Netherlands: George Newnes Ltd.
Neil, M. (2013). Judge describes his sentencing philosophy, is reassigned to civil court in another county. ABA Journal. Retrieved from http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/judge_describes_his_sentencing_philosophy_is_reassigned_to_civil_court_in_a/
Templeton, L. J., & Hartnagel, T. F. (2012). Causal Attributions of Crime and the Public’s Sentencing Goals 1. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice/La Revue canadienne de criminologie et de justice pénale, 54(1), 45-65.