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Sentencing: Alternatives - Development And Characteristics Of Alternative Sentencing Programs

community offenders probation supervision

In and of themselves, intermediate sanctions programs (ISPs) do not imply any particular type of program. Rather, ISP is a generic term, and programs take a variety of forms. The most popular are intensive probation or parole, house arrest, electronic monitoring, boot camps, drug courts, day reporting centers, community service, and specialized (mostly drug-related or sex offender) probation and parole caseloads.

While these alternative sentencing programs differed in detail, they were all designed to be tough, and less expensive than incarceration. Since the voters are not about to endorse "soft" social programs, these new alternatives had to be sold foremost as punitive, rather than as rehabilitative. In fact, some of the older, first-generation "intensive supervision" programs (which had focused on providing intensive rehabilitation services) changed their name to "intensive surveillance" programs, and "alternatives to incarceration" were renamed "intermediate punishments."

The most popular intermediate sanctions are the following.

Intensive supervision probation or parole. ISP programs are currently the most popular intermediate sanction. They exist in all fifty states, and offenders sentenced to them are closely supervised on small caseloads (twenty-five to forty offenders), usually pay victim restitution and perform community service, must hold a job, submit to random urine and alcohol testing, and pay a probation/parole supervision fee. Statewide ISP programs now operate in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Vermont.

House arrest and electronic monitoring. In many respects, house arrest and electronic monitoring programs are identical to ISP programs, except they are often more stringent in terms of conditions and revocation policies. In house arrest programs, offenders are legally ordered to remain in their residences for the duration of sentences (or portions thereof). House arrestees may be allowed to leave their homes for medical reasons, employment, and approved treatment programs. They may also be required to perform community service and to pay victim restitution and supervision fees. House arrest may also be enforced with electronic supervision that includes the use of an electronic monitoring device such as an ankle bracelet, pager, voice verification telephone, or other electronic technology that assists probation and parole officers in ascertaining an offender's whereabouts.

Shock incarceration and boot camps. There are basically two types of shock incarceration programs: (a) programs that simply combine a period of incarceration with a period of probation/parole supervision, and (b) programs that introduce offenders to a "boot camp," which may or may not be followed by a period of probation supervision. The duration of the "shock" and the subsequent supervision component varies from state to state, but it is usually a few months in prison, jail, or boot camp followed by a year in the community. Boot camps are facilities in which young first-time offenders are confined for short periods under rigid standards and strict military discipline.

Residential community corrections programs and day reporting centers. Halfway houses or residential community corrections programs are not new but are enjoying revitalization under the intermediate sanctions concept. These programs sentence offenders to serve their sentences in small residential facilities, operated by private agencies under the jurisdiction of the courts. Residents are sometimes permitted to work or attend treatment during the day, returning at night to the facility. Day reporting centers do not hold offenders overnight; the offenders simply report to the center (usually staying from morning until early evening) and participate in work and/or treatment programs for the day.

Day fines, restitution, and community service. Day fines are a relatively new concept whereby monetary fines are meted out that take into account not only the seriousness of the offender's crime and criminal record, but also his or her ability to pay. Judges first determine the number of fine units an offender should be assigned based on the seriousness of the crime and criminal record. After determining the number of fine units, the judge then reviews the offender's financial circumstances in order to set a monetary value for each of these fine units. Usually this amount is based on some proportion of the defendant's daily income (hence, the term "day fines"). While fairly new, courts in Phoenix, Arizona, and Staten Island, New York, have experimented with this sentencing option. Restitution is compensation for financial, physical, or emotional loss caused by the offender; it usually involves payment of money to the victim, but offenders are sometimes ordered to repair damage or perform other work or service for the victim or the victim's family. Community service requires the offender to work without pay for the community, supervised by either probation/parole staff or by private agency personnel.

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about 7 years ago

what is the role of the society/comminity in the community service sentence?

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over 8 years ago

i would like more information on the rules for vermonts house arrest and electronic monitoring or furlough.

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about 9 years ago

I would like to recieve more information regarding the rules in the shock alternative to incarceration program on the mandatory cutting of the inmates hair - and what if any based on religous or faith, would be excused from the cutting of hair and or dread locks.