Should there only be one goal of sentencing that dominates how criminal sanctions are assigned by judges?Should there only be one goal of sentencing that dominates how criminal sanctions are...

Should there only be one goal of sentencing that dominates how criminal sanctions are assigned by judges?

Should there only be one goal of sentencing that dominates how criminal sanctions are assigned by judges?

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

No, I do not think so.  I think there have to be at least two goals of sentencing that judges should be weighing whenever they sentence a convict.

First, judges need to consider the good of the society.  They have to try to give out sentences that are harsh enough that society will be protected.  They also have to hand down sentences that make society feel that those who break the laws are given serious punishments.  This keeps society more coherent than it would be if people could break laws with relative impunity.

Second, however, judges must also keep in mind the good of the convict.  The convict is part of society as well and has certain rights.  The government ought to want to try to rehabilitate the convict so that he or she can return to society and contribute once again after serving the sentence.  This is another important goal of sentencing.

These two goals will typically come in conflict and judges must balance the demands of each goal as they decide on sentences.

catd1115 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think there should be, but that it is impossible in our current society and judicial system. It is very unclear whether sentences for convicted criminals (at all levels of the courts) are meant to rehabilitate the offender or punish them. Until we decide as a nation what the purpose of the sentences is we cannot have one guiding principle for our judges.

However a true fair system would have one set of guidelines. Or would it? Maybe to be truly fair certain offenses would be sentenced based on the idea of punishment while other would be based on rehabilitation. The problem is no clear guidelines exist for either, and it is truly up to the judge to decide if they are going to punish or rehabilitate the offender.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Let me play the devil's advocate and say "Yes. The one goal of sentencing should be punishment." At the point of sentencing the subject has already been convicted. The next phase is punishment, and while I would not suggest that a convicted criminal's civil rights be violated, I'm wondering why we need to be concerned with what is "good" for the convicted criminal. They've sampled what society had to offer, and they went against it by committing crimes. Maybe we make it too easy for criminals, and should consider a system of punishment like Norway.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I want to agree with #3 and say that sentencing should be focussed on rehabilitation. However, unfortunately, we do not live in a world where everyone shares this goal, and the way that sentencing acts as a deterrent has also to be considered. Even though the whole argument of lengthy prison sentences acting as a deterrent is actually flawed in many ways, popular opinion would cry out if judges sentenced according to what was best for the criminal as it would be considered that they were "going easy" on them.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think we would all be better of if judges considered all of the circumstances in sentences.  Sometimes judges can hide behind the law and say it's out of their hands.  That does not take into consideration all of the variables.  Why did the person commit the crime?  How likely is this person to do it again?  Is this person violent?  This is the problem behind the current drug sentencing laws.  We need to give judges the power to actually judge, and make wise sentencing decisions.

kapokkid eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes.  Sentencing should be guided by the idea of rehabilitating the prisoner or criminal.  Of course, in our system this is likely an impossibility.  If you look at other prison systems, Norway's for example is based entirely on this but their entire system is completely different than ours which is based more on punishment and more permanent imprisonment rather than the goal of helping the person get to a point where they can function in society without trouble.