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Crime Issues: Objectives of Punishment and Sentencing Essay

State and federal objectives of punishment

One of the key objectives of the criminal justice system is to punish someone for the wrong they have committed. People who adhere to this school of thought are not overly concerned about the future of their decision. Their primary concern is to the right a wrong. Some of the factors that punishers consider when passing sentences in this school of thought is the magnitude of the harm caused by the perpetrator as well as the expression of remorse from the individual.

It is often assumed that if a person is remorseful about their actions, then they may not have anticipated the outcomes or could have done harm accidentally. Further, the motive behind the action may sometimes neutralize the harshness of the sentence, as some intentions are more morally acceptable than others (Carlsmith et al., 2002).

State and federal criminal justice systems also punish to prevent criminals from committing future crimes. Therefore, deterrence is a key reason for passing sentences. The logic behind this motive is that if a person is aware of the liability for their actions, then they will be prevented from committing future crimes. They will weigh the benefit of committing the wrong against the cost of getting caught and refrain from doing so.

Common forms of punishment in the deterrence school include corporal punishment, imprisonment, and payment of fines. Usually, punishers make the sentence public such that other people will be aware of the act and refrain from engaging in it in the future. They want to treat individuals who get caught as examples to others. Persons who focus on this objective also believe that if it is difficult to detect a crime, then the magnitude of punishment should be increased to teach others a lesson.

Federal and state criminal systems also punish to incapacitate the wrongdoer. These proponents believe that if a person has been caught doing a wrong, the simplest way of preventing him from committing future wrongs is by keeping him away from members of society by locking them up. The goal is to restrain such dangerous persons by removing opportunities to commit a crime.

Finally, punishment may occur to rehabilitate the wrongdoer. Adherents of this school of thought focus on reducing recidivism rates by reforming the criminal within corrections systems. Sometimes this may occur through work or vocational programs.

Sex-offender treatment plans, drug rehabilitation, behavioral therapy, and community employment are also other methods. These programs intend to prevent individuals from committing crimes after they leave the prison by addressing the root cause of their criminal ways. It also equips them with the knowledge needed to survive in the community legitimately.

How sentencing affects federal and state corrections systems

Sentencing affects corrections systems by introducing additional costs in the management of convicts or potential convicts. Hearings have to take place, and if a sentence allows for revocation of the decision, then the corrections systems will have to accommodate extra costs of transporting this person to those proceedings. Once a sentence has been passed, then corrections facilities have to cater for the well being of the convict.

They provide food, shelter, medical treatment, and other care plans if the convict belongs to a rehabilitation program. If sentences are more severe, in that they pass longer sentences or increase the number of punishable crimes, then the country’s prison population will increase.

Sometimes this may lead to poor management of the facilities or increased expenditure in corrections facilities. Certain states may choose to build more prisons to accommodate rising numbers of convicts. Alternatively, if sentencing becomes less severe, then state coercion will have smaller prison populations and will release more criminals back into society.

When prison crowding occurs, several challenges arise for corrections systems. They must intensify their surveillance systems to maintain order in the facilities. Additionally, certain unwanted behavior may increase in corrections facilities. For instance, cases of illegal drug use may become uncontrollable when the numbers are so high. Planning and management of older inmates may become a reality if longer sentences become the norm.

These individuals require extra medical attention and alterations in the physical facilities as the aged have more physical disabilities. Even instances of sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS are much higher in prison once the numbers increase. Cases of mentally ill convicts may also increase with harsher penalties. Since correctional facilities do not always get a corresponding rise in funding whenever severe or harsher sentences are passed, then it becomes difficult to manage these individuals.

Determinate and indeterminate sentencing

Determinate sentencing refers to punishment, which is definitive. For instance, if a judge decides to give a suspect 12 years in prison under determinate sentencing, the person will serve that full 12 years. This form of punishment arose when the public called for truth in sentencing. They wanted to be sure that criminals served their full sentences.

Conversely, indeterminate sentencing refers to judgments that are flexible. They allow convicts to be released earlier than usual. For instance, a person may receive a judgment of twenty-five years to life. This denotes that when they complete the twenty years, a parole hearing may occur and the person could leave prison earlier than anticipated.

The state appears to be leaning more towards determinate sentencing as a result of public outcry. Many individuals were frustrated at the idea of living with offenders who they assumed would remain locked up for a long time.

These objectives stemmed from the frequency with which criminals were eligible for parole irrespective of whether they had served the maximum time allocated. In states such as Florida, a sentencing system that requires offenders to serve at least 85% of their sentence denoted this move towards determinate sentencing.

Indeterminate sentencing seems to be the most appropriate model. It deals with the problem of overcrowding and gives offenders an incentive to reform. A person who is incarcerated under the determinate sentencing model has a 107% higher chance of committing disorderly offenses in prison than one in the indeterminate system (Miller & Bales, 2012). This is because the latter model will examine a convict’s record in prison to establish his eligibility for parole.

Additionally, determinate sentences increase the costs of managing prisons as they increase populations. Indeterminate sentencing focuses on rehabilitation of convicts such that they can be better prepared for life after prison. Determinate models appear to be a reactive stance to calls for tougher attitudes towards criminals. It is not a sustainable approach because it overburdens corrections facilities.

This takes away funds from other social needs like education. States like California have had to cut down on their education budget to manage soaring prison populations. The American criminal justice system needs a proactive approach that mitigates future crimes rather than one that merely deals with the ones that have occurred.


Carlsmith, K., Darley, J. & Robinson, P. (2002). Why do we punish? Deterrence and just deserts as motives for punishment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(2), 284-299.

Miller, C. & Bales, W. (2012). The impact of determinate sentencing on prisoner misconduct. Journal of Criminal Justice, 40(5), 394-403.

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"Crime Issues: Objectives of Punishment and Sentencing." IvyPanda, 20 Mar. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/crime-issues-objectives-of-punishment-and-sentencing/.

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IvyPanda. "Crime Issues: Objectives of Punishment and Sentencing." March 20, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/crime-issues-objectives-of-punishment-and-sentencing/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Crime Issues: Objectives of Punishment and Sentencing." March 20, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/crime-issues-objectives-of-punishment-and-sentencing/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Crime Issues: Objectives of Punishment and Sentencing'. 20 March.

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