The Methods Of Alternative Sentencing

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Prisons are facilities created to confine people who go against the set of laws in a particular country to rehabilitate them. The first prison was built in 1970 by The Quakers to keep offenders isolated from society. They were to think about their wrongdoing and to seek forgiveness in a kind of spiritual manner. Over time, jails are full of offenders, and the government devised a way to rehabilitate non-capital offenders. Alternative sentencing, which is also known as community sentencing, is a method of punishing a convicted defendant who has committed an offense other than serving jail time. The methods of alternative sentencing include compulsory work where the offenders are required to work for the local community for a given number of hours. Tasks undertaken include sweeping the streets, removing graffiti from walls of buildings, and collecting litter. The second type of community sentencing involves taking the offenders through a series of programs to rehabilitate the person’s behavior. The other types of community sentencing include periodical imprisonment, correctional supervision, the imposition of curfews, and house arrest. There are very many benefits, including decluttering in jails and correctional behavior amongst minor offenders. This essay explains alternative sentencing, its benefits, and some of its disadvantages.

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The program caters to the mental health issues of offenders. Drug and alcohol addiction, which areas are as a result of living with untreated substance use disorder, are not crimes. The law punishes those people with jail terms instead of giving them the help they need to no longer interfere with the law. For a long time, drug and substance abusers and those with mental issues engage in stealing, lying, and risk-taking due to impulsive behavior. Most of these people lack the right set of mind as their goal is to get high. Alternative sentencing engages them in programs where they got a chance to be rehabilitated. Although jails have mental support systems, it is not adequate to address comprehensive disorders for someone to recover fully. True behavioral change takes place when behaviors can be properly examined as well as treated with not only a medical approach but also a social one.

Secondly, alternative sentencing is cost-effective for the government. It is increasingly being recognized that it is essential to know not only what is effective in reducing criminal behavior but also the relative costs of doing so. A lot of money is therefore saved as enough prison-bound offenders get other alternatives and minor offenders sentenced to community sentencing. The cost of an offender per day in prison is much higher compared to that of intensive supervision or if the offender is prohibited from going to certain places and engaging in some activities, let alone house arrest. Court appearances, regular drug tests, and the assignment of pro bono lawyers for offenders with non-capital offenses take up a big chunk the government’s income. Alternative sentencing, therefore, serves best in dealing with cost-saving.

Furthermore, it reduces overcrowding in the already jam-packed jails. The purpose of incarceration is to correct offensive behavior and to rehabilitate offenders. However, imprisonment has been implemented for a long time and has deemed effective that alternate sentencing is not viewed the same. Statistics have shown that it is very likely that an offender taken through alternative sentencing reforms compared to those serving jail time who may lead to further criminalization. Successful alternative sentencing needs to be attached to the harsh and unpleasant sanction of genuine punishment. Offenders need to be supervised and well managed. They make real amends and payback in a visible way to the society they once caused harm to. This leads to a sense of responsibility, and the offenders are not passive victims of circumstance.

Deterrence is one of the major criticisms of alternative sentencing. Unlike imprisonment where the set of living conditions are harsh and almost unbearable, when an offender finishes his time, he is most likely not to commit the same crime or any crime at all with the fear of having to serve more jail time. Alternative sentencing, on the other hand, is fair, and the criminals do not face jail time but possibly a small fine and some community work. Hence the criminals view the offense as minor as they did not face dire consequences for their actions. Committing a similar offense is quite easy if the alternative sentencing was not severe and effective.

Alternative sentencing might be unfair. Many raise questions as the forms of punishment are not standard. A defendant ordered an alternative sentence may wonder why he, for example, if the crime at hand is shoplifting, has to be the one to wear a sign outside the store he stole from while other convicts who committed the same crime are liable to pay fine and maybe engage in community service for a duration of time. A lot of concern about the equal protection promised by the constitution comes up as community sentencing becomes more popular, though, judges passing convictions present alternative sentencing as an option rather than a direct order.

In conclusion, rehabilitation of offenders is possible not only by imprisonment but also via non-custodial sentencing. Many countries across the world are slowly implementing the use of community sentencing not only for their benefit but also for society at large. Although this form of rehabilitation was not as welcomed when the idea rose, over time, more people have come to notice its effectiveness. Engaging offenders in community-based programs that require them to work enables them a sense of responsibility and saves the government a lot of money that would be used to cater for their needs in prison. Rehabilitation of the mentally ill is achieved by driving core values to help them fit better into society without causing chaos. Nothing good lacks a drawback. Deterrence is one of the shortcomings that tag along with alternative sentencing. If the methods used are not harsh and the programs are not well managed, it is very easy for the offender to commit the crime again. Severe methods of alternative sentencing should have adhered to reform criminals without the possible use of serving a jail term. 

29 April 2022

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