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Criminal Sentencing Essay

1378 words - 6 pages

Criminal Sentencing in PAGE \* MERGEFORMAT 5
Running head: CRIMINAL SENTENCING IN AMERICACriminal Sentencing in AmericaJules ThompsonAshford UniversityJuvenile JusticeCRJ 301Will CurcioMarch 21, 2010Criminal Sentencing in AmericaTo understand criminal sentencing in America we must first understand the basis of our legal system. The laws and legal procedures which our criminal justice system is based can be traced back to ancient Rome. Written laws and punishment for crimes are noted in many ancient documents from all over the world. The Ten Commandments, the codes of Hammurabi and the writings of Confucius, all list conduct which is forbidden. These same documents also describe the punishment which should be inflicted upon the person who violates these acts against God or man.To begin with, the Roman legal system became the basis for English common law. Black's describes common law as "A body of law which is based on custom and general principles and that, embodied in case law, serves as precedent or is applied to situations not covered by statute" (Black, 1991). The United States is a common law country, with the exception of Louisiana, which has its legal system based on the French civil code. Common law is adopted as general law except when statute provides otherwise. Sentences for minor crimes under common law in the 1500's included, boiling in oil, drawing and quartering, public beheading and numerous other brutal punishments for small infractions. Under the rule of King Henry VIII the punishment for speaking negatively against a member of the nobility was to publicly have the offenders eyes burned out with red hot pokers.When the English settlers came to the new world, and established colonies in what would later become the United States, they continued to practice English common law. In colonial America there were over two hundred crimes for which a person could be sentenced to death. As the colonies continued to grow, common law remained the basis of their legal system. In the late 1600's, a major change was seen in the colonies with a reduction in the number of crimes for which a person could be executed. The basis of this change was the desire to get away from the cruel forms of punishment that the colonists had seen, and often times been subjected, to while living in England.Between 1620 and 1694, the number of crimes which were punishable by death, fell from two hundred, to thirty five (Henderson, 1991, p. 34). This was in part due to the English Bill of Rights, which was passed by Parliament in 1689. In this Bill, cruel and unusual punishment was prohibited. The settlers wanted to continue to punish those who broke the law but wanted the punishment to fit the crime. The bible says "an eye for an eye" and King Hammurabi introduced lex talionis, which means the punishment should fit the crime. After the American Revolution, the colonies began to view imprisonment as a better option for dealing with criminal offenders. The focus of...

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