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Truth in Sentencing

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Truth in sentencing laws was first enacted by the US in 1984. This was after an outcry that people were getting off too easily. The law requires that convicted criminals serve a substantial portion of their prison sentence. This reduced the leeway of prisoners being released early from incarceration. This was in a bid to reduce crime.

The policy has actually shifted the focus from rehabilitation to punishment. Before the law, convicted criminals used to strive so that wardens could note their behavioral change and propose their release. Once released the criminals would immediately involve themselves in criminal activities once again. So it is better to keep them in prison away from the society.

In the last 20 years, the US has been Applying the policy. Although, it has created unnecessary congestion in the prisons, there has been a meaningful reduction in the rate of crime. The long term incarceration actually acts as a warning to those who may have a vision of becoming criminals. As such they fear engaging in crime and concurrently crime rate reduces. If the criminals were released after serving 30% or 40% of their jail term, other criminals will infer that the condition in jail is actually not tough and they would easily engage in crime.

A long incarceration discourages the convicted criminal from engaging in criminal acts once released. After release, they are quite aware of the tough conditions they have gone through and will definitely change their behavior and start living a life acceptable by the entire society. This purports the fact that the long incarceration has been meaningful.

The kind of treatment criminals receive from the state can affect their subsequent conduct. Apparently, some rehabilitation programs do work but alternatives to incarceration are much expensive and may not reform the individual. We should move away from the belief that tougher sentences do not reduce crime and start looking for better ways of implementing the policy.



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