Judicial Sentence Structures

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Judicial Sentence Structures

5. Dependent upon the laws of a state, courts may have guidelines that need to be followed when sentencing an individual convicted of a crime. Identify and describe at least three different types of sentencing structures that a court might have available when imposing punishment upon a defendant that has been found guilty or pleads guilty to a criminal offense. As part of the response, be sure to discuss any factors that might have to be considered with each sentencing structure.



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Judicial Sentence Structures

For a court to sentence an individual for a particular crime, there has to be some guidance on how to do it. It is scarcely news that most American jurisdictions have or are moving towards the adoption of formal structures of sentencing. These structures of sentencing are the rules, laws, or guidelines which provide detailed and explicit guidance on the severe conviction of offenders, and how they ought to be punished (Hirsch, 1983). The jury can then decide on the punishment or sentence to hand the offender, based on several factors. There are many types of sentencing structures that the jury can use.

The first sentencing structure is indeterminate sentencing. Here, the judges have the discretion to sentence an offender within a broad range, from probation with few conditions and unsupervised, to a prison term of the maximum duration. The pioneers here argued that the offenders were just people who are sick and need help, and the period should “fit the sickness” instead of the period to “fit the crime” (Worrall & Siegel, 2015). Before handing this sentence, the judge has to consider the offender’s criminal history, his threat to the public and his response to the programs that are meant to rehabilitate him. For the offenders sent to jail under this structure, the parole board has the discretion of determining how much of the prison term imposed the offender will have to serve.

Determinate sentences on the other hand is the type of sentence that offers an offender a fixed number of years in prison for a crime committed (Worrall & Siegel, 2015). This kind of sentence is where one goes to prison for a specified period (number of years), as stipulated by law. The parole board can under no circumstance interfere with the sentence imposed, unlike in the indeterminate sentencing. This structure is commonly a system that emphasizes on parole and judicial discretion. Just like the indeterminate sentencing, the judge has to consider some factors before sentencing the individual to a determinate sentence. First, the judge has to consider the crime committed by the individual. The magnitude of the crime committed is a key determinant, as well as the danger the offender possess to the general public, as well as his own safety when he is out there.

A third sentencing structure is a mandatory sentence. This is the kind of sentencing where the law limits the judicial discretion. This structure of sentencing offenders stipulates some minimum period that a convicted offender must serve in prison for the crimes they committed (Cole, Smith, & DeJong, 2015). Crimes such as drug trafficking, violent crime, habitual crimes and crimes where firearms are mostly the crimes that fall under this kind of sentencing. The offenders have to serve at least a minimum number of years in prison for the crimes they committed. Unlike the previous crimes, the judge is not allowed to consider the background of the offender, and subsequently not allowed to offer sentences that are not incarcerate. The only consideration made here is the crime committed, against what the law stipulates as the minimum sentence time.


Cole, G., Smith, C., & DeJong, C. (2015). Criminal justice in America. Boston: Cengage


Hirsch, A. (1983). Commensurability and Crime Prevention: Evaluating Formal Sentencing

Structures and Their Rationale. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1973-), 74, 209-209.

Worrall, J., & Siegel, L. (2015). Introduction to criminal justice. Boston: Cengage Learning.

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