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Prison Term Policy Recommendation

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Prison Term Policy Recommendation

As a Criminologist Advisor to the State Legislature, I have been chosen to provide a prison term policy on armed robbery. Currently the legislature will soon be voting on a bill that would double the maximum prison term for anyone convicted of armed robbery. First I would like to define what the legal definition of armed robbery is as defined by the Black's Law Dictionary which is: an aggravated form of robbery in which the defendant is armed with a dangerous weapon, though it is not necessary to prove that he used the weapon to effectuate the robbery. The taking of property from person or presence of another by use of force or by threatening use of force while armed with a dangerous weapon (Black's Law Dictionary, 6th Edition).

Before I render my decision to support the bill or not to support the bill, I must examine the disparity as it relates to prison sentencing within our judicial system. Sentence disparity is a term used to describe the variations and equities that result when defendants convicted of the same crime receive varying sentences; may refer also to varying sentences from state to state. An example of sentencing disparity is if a three-time offender in one jurisdiction receives 5 years for armed robbery, whereas a three-time offender in another jurisdiction receives 15 years for the same offense (Anderson, 2003).

In my opinion sentencing disparity is unfair. I believe that there should be equal time for the same crime. The justice system should create a sentencing score to go by when handing down sentences. The score should be the same for all jurisdictions in all states and should be followed exactly as written. Judges have too much authority when it comes to sentencing. All judges are not fair and we as realistic citizens can not expect them to be because that would be unrealistic.

So, therefore when it comes to sentencing the people or the race that a particular judge may be prejudice against does not receive fair sentencing, whereas others that the judge may not be prejudice against and may even know does get fair treatment. Judges jobs are to make decisions based on what they hear in court, but just like all people judges also have bad days meaning that one day one person may receive 15 years with the possibility of parole for armed robbery and the next day another person may receive 25 years without the possibility of parole. This is unfair to the people who commit crimes because they are not treated equally by the criminal justice system (Anderson, 2003).

In the long run this could cause the criminal justice system money because of the appeals that inmates may come back with after figuring they have not treated equally by the criminal justice system. If I had a chance to become a Judge I would pass because it comes with too many stipulations and it is also a dangerous job. Sometimes the same crime could be committed under different circumstances such as murder. For instance, a woman could have killed a man in self-defense but was unable to prove that in court and was found guilty of murder in the first degree even though it wasn't or better yet she could not prove it wasn't and another woman could have planned to kill her boyfriend because she was tired of him cheating on her which means had planned this and had though about and the court finds her also guilty of murder in the first degree. Some people would consider this unfair sentencing and maybe even sentencing disparity, but this occurs everyday and the court has no way of knowing what really happened and why it happened so they have so judge on what the courts can prove. It is argued that it is not the severity of the sentencing laws that is the problem, but that these laws essentially remove judicial discretion, and run counter to theories of both sentencing and punishment as well as to the very nature of judicial decision making that the judicial process requires.

Mandatory sentencing legislation demonstrates that the legislature has fundamentally misunderstood what is involved in the process of judging. It also has misunderstood what is required to ensure the continued integrity of the judicial and continued public confidence in the judiciary. The sentencing regime is costly and unlikely to work in the manner originally intended and that the penalties are unfair and unjust. Mandatory sentences deny judges the right to exercise discretion in sentencing, based on an evaluation of the life history and circumstances of the offender. When hearing a case, a judge must consider all aspects of the stories of the participants (Anderson, 2003).

In the mid eighties, Congress dramatically changed the federal sentencing system. The changes followed widespread discontent with the old sentencing system, and they ultimately led to the passage of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines in 1987. In the old system, judges determined criminal sentences. They considered the facts of each particular case including the circumstances of the offense and the life history of the offender and chose a sentence they considered fair. The only requirement was that the sentence is within a statutory range, and the ranges were often extremely broad. Statutes typically authorized sentences like not more than five years, not more than twenty years, or in some cases, any term of years or life. Judges had authority to impose any sentence within the statutory range. The imposition of the sentence was only the beginning. Once the person was in prison, the parole board determined the actual date of release. The parole board considered circumstances like the person's conduct in prison and efforts towards rehabilitation, and it released people to parole supervision when it thought they were ready often after just half the sentence.

If the person misbehaved after release, parole could be revoked and the person could be incarcerated for the remainder of the sentence. In the 1970s this practice fell into disfavor because it permitted too much disparity between cases (Anderson, 2003).

Different judges sentenced similar offenders differently, and parole boards became too powerful. If two identical offenders were each convicted of a crime carrying a sentence of not more than twenty years, one might spend three years in custody and the other might spend fifteen. Evidence accumulated that the system led to arbitrary decision making and sometimes discrimination against poor people and minorities. In 1984 Congress addressed these concerns by creating the United States Sentencing Commission and ordering the promulgation of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines (Anderson, 2003). The new system sharply curtailed parole and confined judicially imposed sentences into narrow ranges. Congress enacted the Guidelines



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