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Posted on June 8th, 2012, by

Group-1 questions

  1. 1.            Which kind of sentencing indeterminate or determinate sentencing aligns more with the juvenile justice philosophy of fairness? Why?

On comparing indeterminate and determinate sentencing, it is necessary to point out that, at first glance determinate sentencing seems to be quite fair and corresponds to the juvenile justice philosophy of fairness.

Unquestionably, determinate sentencing set the general rules for all juveniles who have committed crimes.

Consequently, juveniles that committed the same or similar crime will naturally expect the same or similar sentencing in accordance with the existing rules of sentencing. However, it is necessary to remember that initially determinate sentencing was developed to prevent criminals to commit crimes repeatedly implying that punishment will get more and more severe. In this respect, it is worthy of mention that often juveniles commit the first crime and it is extremely important that the sentence was not too strict in order to give them a chance to evaluate their actions and change their behavior. Moreover, the circumstances and graveness of the crime are also of a paramount importance but determinate sentencing often ignores these factors. No wonder that critics reasonably argue that determinate sentencing is unfair and the punishment is sometimes is out of proportion to the crime (Roberts 2001).

For instance, Jerry Williams was in January 1995 convicted of felony petty theft for stealing a slice of pizza from a group of children in Redondo Beach. This is why it is possible to estimate that indeterminate sentencing is more fair being applied to the juvenile justice philosophy of fairness.

  1. 2.            Should determinate and indeterminate sentencing be applied to different types of juvenile offenses? How? Which of these two types of sentencing is more appropriate for status offenses? Why?

Obviously, determinate and indeterminate sentencing should be applied to different types of juvenile offenses. It should be said that determinate sentencing was initially destined to punish criminals who committed crimes repeatedly. At the same time, it is necessary to point out that often determinate sentencing is based on a so-called three-strikes-and-you’re-out’ law, according to which the systematic violation of law leads to the severe punishment regardless the actual graveness of the crime committed. In such a situation, determinate sentencing seems to be more appropriate for status offenses as they stimulate juveniles to avoid such offenses for the punishment will grow more and more severe.

In stark contrast, indeterminate sentencing is more flexible and provides an opportunity to take into consideration the particular circumstances of the particular crime. As a result, the punishment can directly depend on the concrete crime committed and not on a number of crimes that an individual commits. This is why it is more appropriate for cases when the crime is committed for the first time or when it is not very dangerous socially.

  1. 3.            Some prosecutors, judges, and corrections officials justify the use of indeterminate sentencing because it provides useful tools for achieving legitimate goals. Do you agree with this assessment? Why?

Basically, indeterminate sentencing can really contribute to the achievement of legitimate goals as it is based strictly on the laws and norms that can be applicable to a crime and it does not suppose that any external factors, such as the number of crimes committed by an individual, should play more important role, instead purely legal norms and objective interpretation of facts on the ground of the committed crime are of a paramount importance. In actuality, I agree with this assessment since from a legitimate point of view it is totally correct but I only wonder whether legitimate goals should dominate over humanist principles.

  1. 4.            What important social and legal factors led to the popularity of waiver? Were these same factors also responsible for the wide adoption of indeterminate sentencing? Why?

In fact, there are several social and legal factors that led to the popularity of waiver. Basically, they may be defined as the social and legal intention to prevent crimes or minimize crime rate by stimulating criminals change their lifestyle and do not continue committing crimes. Remarkably, these factors led to the popularity of waiver as a tool to give criminals a chance to rethink their actions and change for better as well as to indeterminate sentencing as an attempt to set maximum sentence in order to prevent further crimes

  1. 5.            Is waiver the best way for the juvenile justice system to deal with juvenile offenders? What could be other possible alternatives?

Waiver seems to be quite humanistic, especially compared to indeterminate sentencing but, nonetheless, it is not the best way for the juvenile justice system as there are still juveniles that commit crimes repeatedly and lack of severe punishment makes the feel free to keep committing crimes. In this respect, the use of determinant sentencing may be helpful in the cases where there recidivist trends.

  1. 6.            Have we come full circle in our treatment of juveniles with sentences such as indeterminate sentencing and policies such as waiver?

In fact, it seems as if we really come full circle in our treatment of juveniles, though it is necessary to remember that neither system is perfect and, thus, can be improved in the future.


Group-2 questions

  1. 1.  What specific social and other predictor factors may have influence Brenda’s delinquent behavior? How?

In general, the social environment is extremely important to the extent that it can even shape the personality of an individual. In this respect, it is possible to estimate that Brenda has become a victim of her environment (Kornhauser 1998). However, the real problem was that it was only the gang where she could feel that she is a member of a community, while because of her origin and poor language skills she could not get integrated in the English speaking community. As a result, she has managed to find her own community, i.e. people she spoke the same language, had similar problems, and share similar interests. In such a way, Brenda’s delinquent behavior is basically predetermined by her criminal social surrounding which, though, is the only social environment where she does not feel a stranger. This is why her major problem is social exclusion from the local community she could not integrate in. as a result, she has naturally preferred the marginal group which, nonetheless, accepted her and actually consisted of other people like her.

Moreover, her delinquent behavior may be also provoked by her protests against the lack of comprehension and her isolated position in the local community. Practically, it means that she realized her exclusion and simply wanted to revenge on the local community representatives of which were in a much better socio-economic position than Brenda who eventually has become a sort of outcast. In this respect, it is necessary to underline that her poverty was also an important factor that contributed to her delinquent behavior since she lacked money and could not earn them in a legal way because of a variety of reasons, including her age, education, language skills, etc (Kornhauser 1998). However, as she needed money, she obviously appreciated that the gang was the only social group that supplied her with money and she could simply believe that the crimes were not so bad if they were committed for the sake of such people as her, who were initially innocent and good citizens but, being excluded from society, were forced to commit crimes to survive.

  1. 2.  How should the juvenile justice system handle Brenda’s case? Why?

Obviously, Brenda’s case is quite complicated but typical in a way. At the same time, it does not necessarily mean that this case should be handles without paying attention to the circumstances and social factors that simply forced Brenda to commit crimes. In fact, it is really important to give Brenda a chance to change her lifestyle but this would be possible only in the case she is able to change her social environment. This is why it is possible to recommend using waiver and probably oblige her to participate in some educational programs in order to learn alternative ways of getting income. It is beyond the doubt that her imprisonment would only aggravate her position as she would feel being punished by the hostile juvenile justice system that is a product of a hostile society. Moreover, it is not a secret that the imprisonment produces a profound and usually negative impact on personality, especially on juvenile criminals.

  1. 3.  Does the juvenile justice system respond to males and females differently? Why? Are indeterminate sentencing practices a good option for juvenile females such as Brenda? Why?

Historically, the juvenile justice system responds to males and females differently. Specialists (Kornhauser 1998) underline that traditionally females are viewed as less exposed to the risk of recidivism and it is believed that it is males who mainly tend to delinquent behavior rather than females. Obviously, this is the result of the existing stereotypes and gender roles. However, the recent data shows that the number of crimes committed by females grows and naturally the sentencing of females is getting to be similar to males. However, indeterminate sentencing does not look like a good option for juvenile females such as Brenda since it deprives them of an opportunity to dramatically change their life but, instead, places them in a delinquent environment for a long period of time.

  1. 4.  What impact will an indeterminate sentence have on Brenda? Will she be more likely to commit serious offenses as an adult in her later life?

In all probability, the indeterminate sentence would have rather negative impact on Brenda than positive. Even though her behavior is socially unacceptable and even dangerous, it is actually not her fault but rather the fault of her community. At the same time, it is also necessary to realize that at the moment Brenda is very young, she is in her teens actually, and this is a very important period in the formation of her personality. At this age she, as well as any other teen, wants to be accepted by the community, she wants to feel support of surrounding people and understanding. The role of the community is of a paramount importance to Brenda now. This is why it would be probably a serious mistake to send her to prison for a long time as an indeterminate sentencing might imply. Beyond the doubt, this will lead Brenda to further exclusion from non-delinquent community and, what is more, the only community she is supposed to grow in will be the community of other juvenile delinquents like her who does not share the values of the rest of society and whose principles do not consider crime to be a crime in the common sense of this word. This is why it will only deteriorate her position and threaten to her non-criminal future.

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