Community Punishments in a Rational Society
Scholarship and Criminal Justice Reform (Erik Luna, ed., 2017)
15 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2017
Date Written: February 18, 2017
Reduction of mass incarceration in the United States will require substantial increases and substantial decreases in use of community punishments. Compared with other developed countries, American jurisdictions overuse community punishments as much as they overuse imprisonment, but mostly for minor and low risk offenders for whom they are often not necessary. That is a waste of money and an unjust intrusion into peoples’ lives. In most developed countries, 5 to 20 percent of convicted offenders are sentenced to confinement and the rest receive community punishments, fines, and suspended prison sentences. Compared with jail or prison terms, community punishments are less expensive, less criminogenic, and more humane. They do less collateral damage to the lives and futures of offenders and their loved ones. They can be scaled to the seriousness of crimes. Well managed, well targeted, and adequately funded programs result in lower reoffending rates. If American sentencing policies and practices were rational and evidence-based, community punishments would be imposed much more often than they now are for mid-level and serious crimes, and imprisonment much less.
Keywords: Community punishments, alternatives to incarceration, intermediate punishments, mass incarceration, probation
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