Alternative Sentencing


If we are to be a serious society then we need to address the human element seriously, and that means addressing the worst of the human element along with the best. As humans are raised differently and their amount of self control varies with each individual there can be no constant as to the degree of behavior. Athletes who have had even the most stringent upbringing may enter the professional world as polite and decent human beings, and then after super stardom and the total collapse of inhibition and self control takes hold what once was a stellar upstanding member of society becomes a variant of the criminal class.

Dennis Rodman would be a perfect case study as to what a decent human being can become.Given the microcosm which is the professional sports world we can easily leap into the macrocosm which is the rest of us in society. Humans of different degrees of self control and civility will engage in various degrees of activity which range from the saintly to the “hell-bound”. As a society that wishes to remain humane and just we must address these variant levels of behavior and establish a system of law and reward to match and measure the proper punishment that will meet the needs of mankind in it’s effort to maintain a civil society.
For the most violent offenders of the laws of mankind this discussion can be brief and for the most part with the exception of the death penalty little is needed in gaining a consensus. However when the crimes fall under the categories of not so heinous, or even the sub-category of “super sillious lawmaking”, more prudent minds have come up with an idea that is as old as time. Alternative Sentencing.
Now this idea isn’t new by any stretch of the imagination, the new part of it is that like any advancing society, new ideas can come up at any time and more than likely have some merit no matter it’s nouveau.

While it is entirely proper and fills it’s calling it can be the subject of many discerning eyes. And for the most part it is worthwhile in pursuing even if a few eyebrows will be raised when a sentence is handed down that sounds more like a treat than a punishment.
Now before getting too far ahead of ourselves as for the justice involved lets take a look at some of the “Alternative Sentencing” that is out there. A main staple for criminals who arguably are not criminals just a person caught up in foolish thinking or just lacked enough self control for the moment to wind up on the wrong side of the law…we have…
”HOUSE ARREST”. or Home Detention as it may be called. Most of the time but not always this may involve what some have endearingly called, “an anklet”. An electronic bracelet usually fitted around the ankle of the subject to send a signal to authorities if that individual leaves a certain area, usually the person’s home.

Then there is the “WORK RELEASE PROGRAM”, sometimes called the “Work Furlough Program”. This program typically has an alternative to Jail housing while the individual goes to work routinely they must return to the facility of choice with no other stops on the way. Do not pass go, do not collect 200.00. Okay in this case they do collect their financial rewards.
Also there is Drug Treatment Options or as they are so endeared by their participants…”DRUG COURTS”. Sounds ominous indeed but it is merely the pass or fail of random drug testing that these courts preside over. For Drug offenders this is an intelligent alternative to filling up prisons with addicted people who are not living the life of career criminal.

“CITY JAIL” or Private Jail, this is like voluntary jail. You do your time when you can allowing to participate in a normal life yet still do the prescribed penalty for your crime. Kind of like Otus in Mayberry who would come in at night and sleep it off. Sort of, or maybe not.

“SOBER LIVING”, affectionately called halfway houses. Halfway between Jail and living free. Mainly for alcoholics who have committed crimes but for the sake of their addiction maybe would have chosen better.
“DIVERSION PROGRAMS”, or a more accurate term would be Addiction Education classes. Pass this class and maybe your minor crime is paid in full.

And lastly we all know the ever-loving slap on the wrist…”COMMUNITY SERVICE”. Unfortunately I am not rich enough to know too much about this sort of punishment. Saw it on TV. but doubtfully will never experience it. This program can consist of cleaning up your freeway or being on a television sitcom. Whatever the judge feels like.

So there you have it, a cornucopia of mental solutions for the inexperienced or novice criminal. Truth be told when mankind puts it’s collective minds together, they don’t do half bad.

Now while the idea here is not to have a one-size-fits-all mentality, it is necessary to have programs readily available to keep the “Eigth Amendment” in the spirit it was intended. Unlike other societies around the world who have neither the time nor the inclination to fit the punishment to the crime, we have come up with a rather strong argument for why these “Programs” need to be implemented. For one they free up tax payer dollars. Another argument could be made it doesn’t create a career criminal which housing someone in with other career criminals could create. ( I couldn’t find exact evidence of this in my research but I strongly believe it and believe evidence does exist to corroborate it ). But even more compelling is the compassion of it.

Now statistics could be made to say anything and while researching the topic of “Statistics of alternative sentencing” I came away with so much conflicting data I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. But it doesn’t stop me from coming to conclusions of what I read. Inasmuch as some say Alternative Sentencing is a farce and a waste of time, some important statistics did jump out. Alternative Sentencing produces much less repeat offenders. Now if you consider the types of crimes that are committed that receive alternative sentencing you could call that rubbish. But there is real meat in there and that has to be considered. It would matter not the category, if you get less repeat offenders, something has to be working. That is just plain common sense.

Now where we can offer these programs where I think statistics would lead us is obviously the addicted. Unfortunately we have made addiction a crime. The use of illegal narcotics while is arguable in and of itself creates an instant criminal. While it might be easier to separate the “salesman” from the buyer never-the-less they both are criminals in the courts of our land. So here we are with a person who has stolen nothing, injured no one save his or herself and in a moment of weakness that person is now a criminal. Well for a crime like that would it make sense to put that person in prison? Don’t even ask yourself that ridiculous question, because right now in this country alone the prisons are filled with them.

Now I don’t argue that after the person falls into the addiction usually bad things happen. Addicted people are famous for doing what they need to or have to; to continue on the addicted path. For those who use their addiction as an excuse to forgo any self control, well depending on the degree it leads to will depend upon where in the criminal justice system they land. But this does not deter my argument that drug addiction in itself isn’t criminal. So a reasonable mind would have to come up with a reasonable reward for such an action and “Alternative Sentencing fits that bill nicely.

For crimes which society deem to be harmless enough Alternative Sentencing and Diversion must play the central role. It is fruitless and inhumane to do otherwise. In the case where rehabilitation is the keyword in all of criminal justice; over reaction to and heavy handedness to sentencing does nothing to help someone who has made a redeemable mistake. Humans will for the most part like an airplane be off course most of their destination, while making the final corrections just before their landing. It makes sense to be understanding of human behavior and use the rewards of the justice system to merit the crime, so that people who have a chance for rehabilitation are in an environment where they can feel like they can be redeemed. Over reaction and heavy handedness by judges is just as damaging as leniency. It has it’s place and wise men have done society a great justice in making sure we do not create a vengeful creature out of a minor mistake.

Whether or not the system is working to the best of it’s creators hopes is not the real question here. The real question is, what would it be like without Alternative Sentencing? That is not an answer I would look forward to hearing.

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