Sentencing Alternatives – Back to the Future

The article under consideration is entitled “Sentencing Alternatives – Back to the Future”. It dwells upon such topical issues as sentencing and incarceration, and this is the major reason why I have chosen the article. First of all, Hoelter, the author of the article, claims that the imperfect legislation as for punishment has led to overpopulation of prisons which causes a number of economical and social issues. Besides, the author provides data which suggest that incarceration is not that effective, in comparison with other types of punishment in many cases. Moreover, the article provides certain measures to be undertaken to improve sentencing in the United States.

The major purpose of the article is to attract attention of all concerned to sentencing issues by revealing data concerning imperfections of sentencing (imprisonment in particular) and providing information about alternative ways of punishment, e.g. “highly restrictive community-based punishments (which often require drug testing, employment, community service, and curfews)” (Hoelter 55).

It is necessary to point out that the author relies on various surveys to support his arguments. He also resorts to several examples which illustrate his arguments. The use of these sources makes the article credible and informative.

Thus, the article provides data which justify that the policy started in 1987 was not very effective. It was believed then that “prison became the only suitable punishment to meet the goals of sentencing” and this approach resulted in numerous imprisonment (there was only 8% of “nonprison sentence”) (Hoelter 53). However, it led to new problems since overpopulation in prisons led to additional bondage for the country’s budget. More so, the rate of recidivism has increased and prisons “have become fertile breeding grounds for gang recruitment” (Hoelter 57).

The author points out that soon judges have started looking for the ways to “create more individualized sentences” (Hoelter 54). The article provides several examples of such “individualized” approach. At this point it is necessary to point out that this approach has been applicable for offenders who have not been “convicted of a crime of violence or an otherwise serious offense” (Hoelter 54).

The article also provides the results of the research which suggested that imprisonment in the majority of cases was not considered to be as harsh as alternative sentencing. Finally, the author claims that there is still much to be done to improve sentencing. Hoelter points out that it is important for politicians to rethink their positions and to “vote against any future prison construction projects” (57). The author also states that corresponding education of judges and court officials who should be aware of the alternative ways of punishment and their benefits. It is also stressed that probation officers should be trained accordingly.

The author notes that probation officers have been “relegated to a robotic role”, whereas these people should participate in the process more actively, and even recommend other types of punishment if necessary (Hoelter 58). Thus, the author believes that it is possible to improve sentencing if undertake certain measures.

As far as the quality of the research is concerned it is necessary to point out that the article is based on credible information: surveys and reports. In fact, every statement and argument of the article is supported by definite data: facts, laws, cases. Thus, the article presents a lot of credible information. Apart from surveys, Hoelter provides examples from his own experience, and illustrates precedents which took place. This makes the article sound more clear and not that distant since the author not only gives a number of facts and figures, but exemplifies how these data have been manifested in the real life.

To my mind, the author draws reasonable conclusions and suggests effective measures to be undertaken. Thus, Hoelter provides evidence as for ineffectiveness of imprisonment in certain cases. It becomes clear that it leads to wasting money on numerous inmates, which does jeopardize economy of the country. Besides, the imprisonment often results in recidivism. It makes sense that alternative ways of punishment should be found. The fact that these ways are proved to be regarded as harsh, contributes to the idea of alternative sentencing appropriateness. More so, the author’s suggestions as for certain steps to be made are reasonable. The author addresses many weak points of sentencing and highlights what can be done. In fact, the article should be regarded as a guide for politicians and court officials.

The present article also plays quite an important role in the discourse concerning sentencing since it provides certain facts that prove ineffectiveness of imprisonment in many cases and, at the same time, suggests certain measures which can improve the situation. In fact, the article’s major value is not about Hoelter’s suggestions (which are still very valuable) but it is about the discussions evoked by the article. The article raises questions which court officials, politicians and the public should consider and draw the necessary conclusions. Such consideration will definitely positively affect many issues which go beyond legislations and touch upon economical and social problems.

Works Cited

Hoelter, Herbert J. “Sentencing Alternatives – Back to the Future.” Federal Sentencing Reporter 22.1 (2009): 53-58.

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