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Sentencing Principles

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The law condemns and punishes only actions within certain definite and narrow limits; it thereby justifies, in a way, all similar actions that lie outside those limits – Leo Tolstoy.

Crime unfortunately today is a part of our society and the government has devised certain actions to deal with it. To some extent it is right when the government acts stringently with the criminals as heinous crimes should be dealt that way only and should be a lesson for others.  But the other theory is that the criminals are also human beings and should be given one chance to redeem themselves. Obviously the talk here is not for the hard core criminals but some criminals like who if given a chance can turn into responsible citizens of the country.

Sentencing principles

The procedure of pronouncing the verdict is very simple. If the criminal is found guilty and his crime is proven then based on the degree of his crime the punishment is meted out. But is the only solution to this? Can’t there be any other option to treat these people? Is the policy an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth the only viable option left? Well the questions are many and the answers need to be searched. One such approach that is being touted as a better way to handle the criminals is the restorative justice. A restorative justice is an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of the victims and the offenders and looks at them friom a more humane perspective. It does not believe in meting out strict punishment to the offender. In this the offenders are given an opportunity to take responsibility of their actions and take measures to rectify the damage they might have caused. For example they can go and apologize to the people they might have harmed or might return the belongings they might have stolen or if possible undo any wrong doing that they might have caused. There is another thing that the offenders are made to do and that is community service. It is based on a theory of justice that focuses on crime and wrong doing as acted against the individual or community rather than the state. Restorative Justice can involve a fostering of dialog between the offender and the victim and makes sure that better dialog takes place between the two and the part of the victim is taken care of.  The offenders can also be sent to rehabilitation as well or if neither the rehabilitation nor the restorative justice works then the only solution is punishment. The society relies on the criminal justice system to either punish the offenders or at the most rehabilitate them. Rehabilitation and punishment are two objectives of the law.

Rehabilitation or Punishment

There have been arguments regarding the effectiveness of the punishment or the rehabilitation meted out to the offenders. They have been analyzed to determine which one has a better outcome for society and the victim as well as the criminal offender. For the society it has to be seen whether it impacts it in any way or not. Plus the financial implication has to be seen as well.  While rehabilitation is considered to be a better way as it gradually takes away the offenders will to return to crime again and helps him completely turning out into a responsible citizen, punishment is just a preventive measure.  The criminal justice system uses punishment in an effort to deter the criminal offender from committing future offenses.  But the main argument is that whether punishment is the ultimate solution to this or not. Do these punishments ensure that the offender might not commit the same offences again. Well it is true that rehabilitation also does not guarantee it either but the chances are more in that case that the punishment. Study just confirms what we have said. Approximately sixty-three percent of criminal offenders who have been punished have committed crimes in the past. According to what we have seen and studied it is very much clear that punishment is just a temporary solution. If we need to cleanse the society completely then we need to look more deeply into it. Offenders who have been serving death penalties or life imprisonment also commit crime in the confinement. Whereas rehabilitation is considered to be a better and more appropriate solution to it. The foundation of this argument is that a criminal offender who spends time in learning a trade and getting an education will be more likely to become a productive part of society and adjust to it well and not go back to the world where he came from.

Restorative Justice

Looking at all these points the restorative justice is gaining momentum. The ultimate aim of the judicial system is to cleanse the society once and for all. Of course the serial offenders and criminals need to be punished to set an example and avoid future incidences but that is not the only solution for sure. Restorative justice is a theory that emphasizes on repairing the harm caused by them. The step for restorative justice is very simple. All the stakeholders will be a part of it and a road map will be set as to how will the processes go on. Steps will be taken to repair the harm and transforming the traditional relationship between communities and their governments in responding to crime. The programs that are included in the restorative justice include the victim offender mediation wherein they interact with each other and try to solve out the matter. The offenders try to repair the damage he has caused to the victim in whatever way he can. At the end if it he may be also sent to do community service. The restorative justice gives the offenders a chance to redeem themselves and a chance to lead their lives normally. The theory is that we have just got life and if we realize our mistakes and promise to never commit them again then a chance is all what is required. And that is what is being provided to them through restorative judgment. The rehabilitation programs are carried for the offenders and is believed that since they are spending time in learning a trade and getting an education the chance for them to be able to repent their wrong doing and never do that again in life is greater that when they are punished.  The rehabilitation programs are community programs that offer a chance to the offenders to obtain a college degree or learn a trade, go through counseling and be able to learn tricks that will help them find employment when they are released finally. There are various types of counseling also available for them. The counseling includes drug and psychological counseling. Drug counseling is very beneficial for those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. They can kick their habit and start leading a fresh life all over again.  Psychological counseling can be beneficial to criminal offenders who have had troublesome pasts and have faced things like childhood abuse, sexual harassment or family woes. All this will help him cure himself of his mental block. Many rehabilitation programs also offer programs such as anger management for criminal offenders who have committed violent acts or those who simply have anger issues. One should remember that the main aim of restorative justice is to change the life of the offender for good. The whole instinct of the person has to be changed. This cannot be done overnight but is very much doable. The aim of such rehabilitation programs is to change the lives of the offenders and kill their desire to go back to that life again and remove their desire to commit criminal acts. Rehabilitation also allows criminal offenders to be on probation where they are not in need of taxpayer money to fund their living like they would be if they were in confinement such as jail or prison.

Hence restorative justice does follow its own course. It is beneficial for the offender as it gives him a chance to restore his life.


The debate between the punishment and the restorative justice and their benefits is never ending. Some argue the effectiveness of the restorative justice. The argument is that are we making the society more dangerous by letting the criminal offenders re enter the society. What is the guarantee that they will not commit the crime again? How do we guarantee that? The questions are not unreasonable. But the fact remains that this is a long term solution. Yes we admit that there may be a few who might dupe of having changed and then commit the same thing again. But such instances will surely increase in the longer run. It is a fact. At least we can hope that. At least we can think of a better society in a few years from now. But with the punishments we can’t even do that. 

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