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Truth In Sentencing Policies And The Effects On Courts And Prisons

1637 words - 7 pages

Society has high expectations for criminal justice. Controlling the behavior of people is a difficult task, and there are several differing opinions on how this should happen. Many believe this can best accomplished by prevention through deterrence. Deterrence can be achieved from increased police patrols, good relationships with the community, and through tough penalties for convicted criminals. When deterrence fails, criminals need to be identified and held accountable for their actions. Law enforcement enforces many different crimes; some of the most serious crimes are violent crimes.
According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, violent crime is defined by four offenses: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault (FBI, 2007). Defeating the threat of violent offenders is important to the safety of society. Many can agree safety is important; however holding offenders accountable varies from state to state. Traditionally, there has been disparity among sentencing violent offenders. One way to reduce this disparity is to have uniform guidance to help judges determine the appropriate sentences a violent offender should receive. Many have argued against the perceived truth in sentences, when violators are being released without serving the majority of their sentences.
Each state is responsible for controlling crime. One area many states wanted to focus their efforts to combat crime was against violent offenders. In the 1980s, States enacted tougher punishments for violent offenders in efforts to lessen the disparity among sentences. These efforts included mandatory minimum sentences and Truth-in-sentencing. In 1994, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act was passed. This crime act included an incentive formula grant program to build or expand correctional facilities and jails (Office of Justice Programs, 2010).
According to Brian J. Ostrom, Truth in sentencing is the most prominent sentencing reform movement of the 1990s (2001). Truth in sentencing was designed to closely align the sentence imposed by the judge with the actual amount of time served in prison by restricting or eliminating parole eligibility and good time. This violent offender incarceration and truth in sentencing initiative was amended in 1996 to promote reform by providing States grants to expand their prison capacity if they included truth in sentencing requirements to violent offenders (Rosich, 2005). This grant program was instrumental in many states adopting the truth in sentencing guidelines into their policies. To be eligible for grants, each state had to demonstrate they applied truth in sentencing laws, within three years truth in sentencing laws would be implemented. By 1999, 41 states and the District of Columbia passed laws or implemented some form of truth in sentencing; however each state varied in their applications.

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