Indeterminate & Structured Sentencing

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The idea of Indeterminate Sentencing is both worrisome and objectionable, as it allows the legislature to set the boundaries for a crime but leaves the judge with the responsibility of deciding the exact punishment for the offender. After examining this data, I strongly believe that while judges should have some discretion in sentencing, they should not have complete control over it.

The Parole Board determines the length of an offender’s imprisonment, taking into account factors such as meeting the offender’s needs and implementing Good Time Laws, which reduce sentences for well-behaved incarcerated individuals.

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According to the CJ 2010 Textbook (Pg 140), an offender’s sentence could range from a minimum of 1 year to a maximum of 20 years. However, the actual number of years to be served would depend on the prisoner’s progress towards rehabilitation. This sentencing approach not only empowered judges but also granted extensive power to prison authorities. In essence, it was the prison authorities, rather than the judge, who ultimately determined the length of the sentence.

Prison Authorities have the ability to exercise this power with minimal supervision. One advantage of Indeterminate Sentencing is that it offers flexibility to tailor the sentence length to match the specific circumstances (CJ 2010 Textbook Pg. 139). However, a disadvantage is that it can lead to differing sentences that may seem unjust, as judges have the freedom to interpret and apply the law differently (CJ 2010 Textbook Pg. 139). Thus, this sentencing approach grants judges significant authority in determining the punishment for offenders.

I think it is problematic that judges do not have sentencing guidelines. I believe specific guidelines are necessary in cases like this to ensure fairness. Currently, there is a chance that a judge may have personal biases towards the crime or offender, leading to an unjustifiably longer sentence. This unfairly treats the offender. To solve this problem, federal legislation has introduced Structured Sentencing models that aim to fix these inconsistencies. These models include different measures such as:

Both Determinate Sentencing and Indeterminate Sentencing are utilized in criminal justice systems. However, I prefer Structured Sentencing over Indeterminate Sentencing because it incorporates sentencing guidelines. These guidelines function as rules that judges must follow when determining the suitable sentence for an offender according to the committed crime. I strongly believe that judges should also be held accountable if they deviate from these guidelines.

Determinate Sentencing involves a judge determining the length of a sentence within a range of 18-24 months. The sentence can be shortened for first-time or youthful offenders, and increased for aggravating factors. The legislation allows judges to set the range of incarceration. One advantage is ensuring equal sentences for the same crime while considering individual circumstances. However, a drawback is that the sentencing range often lacks research-based effectiveness and appropriateness.

Mandatory Sentencing occurs when legislation establishes fixed sentences for specific crimes, leaving no discretion to judges in sentencing. This type of sentencing typically applies to crimes involving firearms or drugs.

Mandatory Sentencing has the advantage of preventing lenient sentences based on the judge’s discretion (CJ 2010 Textbook Pg. 139). However, it also has a disadvantage as it does not take into account individual circumstances. This means that offenders who could have benefited from diversion programs, counseling, or probation will be sent to prison (CJ 2010 Textbook Pg. 139). The Mandatory Habitual Offenders Law requires a specific duration of incarceration upon guiltiness and does not allow the judge to modify the sentence.

The Mandatory Habitual Offenders Law applies only to repeat offenders, providing reassurance to the public that dangerous offenders will receive long prison terms. However, this can lead to lengthy sentences for minor offenses or young offenders, which are expensive and have little effect on rehabilitation or chances of reform. Presumptive Sentencing refers to federal legislation and Sentencing Guidelines that offer specific guidelines based on the primary offense, adjustable with mitigating or aggravating factors. Its goal is to ensure fair and unbiased sentences but restricts judges from considering individual circumstances.

Supreme Court rulings have declared federal sentencing guidelines unconstitutional. However, they are still considered constitutional if viewed as advisory for judges. Numerous individuals question whether two people who commit the same crime should receive different sentences. Personally, I believe that varying sentences should not be given. Although the manner in which the crime is carried out may differ, both individuals ultimately committed the same offense. Thus, in my opinion, identical sentences should be imposed and they should serve an equal duration of time in prison for their respective crimes.

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Indeterminate & Structured Sentencing. (2017, Mar 20). Retrieved from

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