Sentencing – Essay Example

Crime, Sentencing, and Reducing Criminal Activity: An Overview Ron Steele XYZ In recent years, the United s has significant trends in criminal justice to incarcerate more individuals with harsh prison sentences. In my analysis, I will first examine the statistics regarding tougher criminal sentencing. Next, I will argue how tougher sentencing is only one of many factors in the reduction of crime. Finally, I will present some key problems with tougher sentencing along with some alternatives that could be better used in many cases than extended prison sentences.
A study by King, Mauer, and Young (2005) found that between the years 1920 and 1970, the overall U.S. population doubled, while the number of people in prison rose at only a slightly higher rate (King et al., 2005). In contrast, from 1970 to the year 2000, the U.S. population increased by less that 40%, while people incarcerated rose by more than 500% (King et al., 2005). From this analysis, we can see that the U.S. prison population has skyrocketed in recent years.
The statistics do indicate a falling crime rate in recent years. King et al. (2005) found that violent crime has fell nationwide by 33% since 1994, and property crime nationally is down by 23% (King et al., 2005). However, tougher sentencing should not be looked at in isolation. Levitt (2004) found other key factors that reduced crime. One was the increase in the number of police. Other factors included the rising prison population; the receding crack cocaine epidemic; and surprisingly, the legalization of abortion (Levitt, 2004).
Levitt (2004) argues that the legalization of abortion made for less unwanted births and children. Levitt concluded that unwanted children are at a much higher risk for future criminal activity (Levitt, 2004). Several prior studies found similar results in the correlation between the use of abortion and lower crime.
Finally, there are definite problems with imprisoning a higher number of people with tough sentences. Hart (2002) mentions how the public favors by a 65% to a 32% margin to address the causes of crime in people, instead of a punitive approach (Hart, 2002). The study goes on to show that two thirds of Americans agree that rehabilitation through education and job training would be a better alternative, so that prisoners can turn away from a likelihood to stay in the criminal justice system (Hart, 2002).
The public’s concern is that when offenders are released, they will have the same or worse skill sets, coping tools, and job opportunities than before they entered prison. Thus, they will have a much higher likelihood to reoffend (Hart, 2002).
In summary, it seems logical that treatment and rehabilitation for non-violent offenders; drug abusers; and alcohol abusers can be improved. However, the improvement would be for people to be participants in court ordered rehabilitation, and become productive members to society instead of being a continuing burden and threat upon release by courts imposing long and harsh sentencing.
Hart, P. (2002). Changing Public Attitudes Toward the Criminal Justice System. The Open
Society Institute. pp.1-21.
King, R., Maurer, M., & Young ,M. (2005). Incarceration and Crime: A Complex Relationship.
The Sentencing Project. pp.1-11.
Levitt, S. (2004). Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s: Four Factors that Explain the
Decline and Six that Do Not. Journal of Economic Perspectives. 18(1). pp. 163-190.