What Are the Five General Goals of Criminal Sentencing?

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Criminal sentencing was designed to achieve five general goals: societal retribution, prevention of further criminal acts through incapacitation, deterrence of further crimes, rehabilitation of the offender and victim restoration, which is also called reparation. The traditional types of sentences are fines, probation, incarceration and capital punishment. Some new approaches to sentencing include shock probation, home confinement and intensive supervision.

An additional goal of sentencing is that of denunciation. This refers to an expression of society’s disapproval of the act committed as a means of reinforcing moral values and boundaries. This serves to illustrate the relative blameworthiness of the act as defined by the moral parameters of the society.

Some jurisdictions use alternatives to a sentence of incarceration to protect the public from further crimes. Offenders may be made to wear electronic tagging devices or adhere to banning orders to meet the sentencing goal of incapacitation. Unpaid labor and community service in lieu of direct monetary compensation can also be considered as reasonable alternatives with regard to the goal of reparation.

Sentences involving incarceration can be intermediate, determinate or indeterminate. Intermediate sentences are served over weekends, determinate sentences are served for a predetermined and specific length of time and indeterminate sentences carry minimum and maximum time frames, such as 5 to 7 years.