Corrections New Jersey Sentencing Laws Research Proposal

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Corrections

New Jersey Sentencing Laws

The concept of corrections can be defined as the treatment of offenders through a system of penal incarceration, rehabilitation, probation, and parole. The main goal of a country's correctional system has always been determined by what society wants. These wishes are then shaped by politics and implemented through public policy. Throughout history in this country the correctional systems main objective has been to protect the people of the country. There have been many ideas and processes established over the years in order to try and carry this out, and the question of which of these processes is right has been a big debate in this country for years.

Some of the different processes that have been established over the years to try and accomplish the goal of protecting society include the following:

Retribution- the idea of retribution has to do with being punished for doing something wrong, which includes the idea of just deserts.

Deterrence- this idea has to do with discouraging people from doing things that are considered wrong. Generally it is designed to prevent others from committing crimes for fear of a similar punishment. Specifically it is designed to deter the offender from repeating crimes.

Rehabilitation- Treatment, programs, and alternative sanctions that are intended to help restore an individual to a useful place in society.

Reintegration- this is the process of putting an offender back into society as a useful member.

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Incapacitation- is the idea of locking an offender up in jail or prison so that they can't offend again. It sometimes includes a lesser restriction such as an electronic bracelet (Statutory Changes to Sentencing under the NJ Code of Criminal Justice: 1979 to Present, 2007).

Just deserts- is the idea of getting what you deserve or "an eye for an eye."

Research Proposal on Corrections New Jersey Sentencing Laws the Concept Assignment

If you look at these ideologies in respect to the main goal of our correctional system, that of protecting society, I think that the best approach involves using incapacitation, rehabilitation and reintegration. You can't say that there is just one idea that supports the main goal of our corrections system. It is in fact an intricate working of many things that are dependent upon one another. The first step involves taking the offender out of society by means of incapacitation so that they can't offend again. While this person is incapacitated, rehabilitation must take place.

And once a person is considered to be reformed and rehabilitated then the concept of reintegration comes into play. This person must be put back into society in a way that they can maintain their rehabilitated state and once again become a useful part of society.

Until recently, judges in the state of New Jersey were guided by the general ideas of rehabilitation, retribution, incapacitation, deterrence and protection of the public when passing sentence. For many judges the primary focus during sentencing was on the rehabilitation of the offender. Sentencing was basically offender oriented, with the punishment governed more by the particular circumstances and characteristics of the offender than by the severity of the crime.

In 1984, the Supreme Court of New Jersey established a general outline to guide judges when passing sentence in order to make things more uniform. This initiative led the abandonment of the rehabilitative model and replaced it with a system premised on just deserts. This line of thinking gave way to the punishment fitting the crime and not the criminal (Statutory Changes to Sentencing under the NJ Code of Criminal Justice: 1979 to Present, 2007).

The question is, does the just desert sentencing structure in the state of New Jersey achieve the ultimate goal of protecting our society? It is generally believed that the sentencing phase of our criminal justice system is the weakest link of the entire process. For most crimes, sentences fail to prevent another crime being committed by the sentenced offender. Sentencing often ignores the objective of crime reduction and focuses on fitting the punishment to the crime and not to the offender. In most states that have sentencing guidelines, like in the state of New Jersey, the sentencing guidelines do not practice crime reduction. The guidelines are not about crime reduction but instead about punishing the offender according to the seriousness of the crime or their criminal history. They are also used to regulate the use of prison resources and to seek consistency in sentencing (Statutory Changes to Sentencing under the NJ Code of Criminal Justice: 1979 to Present, 2007).

You can assess the success or lack of success of this sentencing ideology by looking at recidivism rates. According to one study, seven out of 10 offenders across the nation have been jailed before. Out of the 270,111 released from prison 4.1 million had prior arrests and 744,000 had arrests with in 3 years after release (Statutory Changes to Sentencing under the NJ Code of Criminal Justice: 1979 to Present, 2007). If you look at the recidivism rates in the state of New Jersey you find that in most recent study conducted by the Department of Corrections, the results showed that the overall re arrest rate for adult offenders previously incarcerated in a New Jersey state correctional facility was 55%.

The reconviction rate was 43% and the re incarceration rate was 31%. It has been shown that the highest risk period that formerly incarcerated persons face is the initial period following their release from prison. Of those offenders in the study that were rearrested, about half were rearrested within nine months of release (Frequently Asked Questions, 2009).

If you look at all the evidence, it does not look as if the current New Jersey sentencing laws are supporting the main goal of corrections, that of public safety. The current sentencing structure does not have any room for rehabilitation built into it. And with no rehab programs being administered the percentage of offenders that re offends is staggering. I think that the laws need to be changed in order to incorporate the component of rehabilitation into them along with reintegration being included as well. Sentencing that ignores crime reduction produces leads to avoidable victimizations, squandered correctional resources, and tremendous fiscal waste. It also produced a tarnished reputation for the criminal justice system and is truly cruel to all that involved (Michael Dowling, 2007).

It is believed that 95% of all inmates will eventually return to society, so adopting polices that reflect the thinking of reform and rehabilitation is good way to promote public safety (Blakely, 2008). Studies have shown that if appropriate treatment is used the recidivism rates drop by 30%.

Appropriate treatment would include programs with monitored staff and enforced treatment practices.

If inappropriate treatment procedures are employed the recidivism rates increase by 6%. Traditional punishments have also been shown to increase the recidivism rates by 7%. In another study conducted by the Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice, it was shown that a group high risk offenders who were released to parole supervision, had significantly lower re arrest rates than a similar groups of offenders who had maxed out their sentence. Those that served their entire sentences where generally released with no supervision (Neal Buccino, 2008). Those that were released on parole were subject to intensive law enforcement supervision and given access to a variety of community reentry programs. The study found that:

Only 41% of the parolees were re arrested, compared to 51% of general parolees and 73% of those who served their entire sentences

Only 7% of the parolees were re arrested on violent charges, compared with 13% of general parolees and 26% of max outs

Only 13% of the parolees were arrested on drug charges, compared with 30% of regular parolees and 41% of max outs

Only 21% of the parolees were arrested on other types of charges, compared with 24% of general parolees and 35% of max outs (Neal Buccino, 2008).

Although there have not been any formal changes in the laws in the state of New Jersey, there has been some changed taking place in State Parole Board. During the last three years they have begun to adopt policies aimed at reducing re incarceration rates and promoting the successful re entry of parolees. As part of this initiative the Board, has expanded the availably of residential treatment facilities to address substance abuse and other barriers to successful re-entry. They have adopted a set of graduated sanctions in regards to parole violations that are aimed at reducing the number of parolees who are re incarcerated. And they have expanded non-residential programs to aid parolees in making the transition back from prison into society (Michael Dowling, 2007).

In addition to these new guidelines, the Parole Board has launched a program of community commitment. This includes several community outreach programs and continuous ongoing coordination efforts with these programs. Through these community partnership efforts the Board has recruited hundreds of community leaders who work with parolees by providing additional mentoring, substance abuse counseling and other forms of assistance (Michael Dowling, 2007).

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