ICCA POLICY POSITION ON OFFENDER SENTENCING

I. INTRODUCTION

ICCA recognizes community corrections as a vital component of the criminal justice system and as an important and effective sentencing option. Community corrections refers to community-based services that occur outside of prison or jail, and includes supervision and monitoring, treatment programs, comprehensive service provision, and community-based sanctions.

Community corrections holds offenders accountable for their behavior and promotes long term changes that will reduce the behaviors that lead to criminal behavior.

ICCA is committed to a proven, evidence-based sentencing combination of monitoring, sanctions, and treatment leading to the greatest possible impact on individual behavior, public safety, and reduced recidivism.

II. BACKGROUND

The rate of incarceration and associated costs differentiates the United States from all other western democracies. According to the Economic Perspectives on Incarceration and the Criminal Justice System, Executive Office of the President of the United States, April 2016, expenditures on the criminal justice system totalled over 274 billion dollars. This cost reflects a 74 percent increase relative to spending in 1993. In 1993 11 states spent more on corrections than on higher education. 650,000 inmates return home from prison every year, and their recidivism rate averages 67% nationwide (defined as being re-arrested within three years of release).

Community corrections sanctions and interventions provide meaningful responses to crime which are cost-effective. In addition, they can address the causes of criminal behavior and reduce the risk of future criminal behavior.

III. STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES

  • The goals of a system of sentencing are appropriate punishment to respond to a criminal act and to reduce the opportunity and inclination to commit further offenses. The punishment should be proportional to the severity of the offense. Within the upper and lower bounds of a proportional sanction, considerations including individual culpability and circumstances, should inform the sentencing decision.
  • A sentencing system should treat similarly situated defendants similarly while retaining the flexibility to account for relevant differences among individuals.
  • Structured sentencing systems should be designed to support proportional yet flexible sentencing and a continuum of sentencing strategies from community corrections placement to incarceration.
  • Victims of crime should have the opportunity to make an impact statement at sentencing and should be treated fairly in the sentencing process.
  • Policy makers should understand the fiscal impact and collateral consequences of any proposed sentencing change.

IV. RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. Support appropriate efforts to structure the discretion of judicial sentencing, without eliminating it, as mandatory minimums and “three strikes” laws have done.
  2. Promote the use of the most effective criminal sanctions to protect public safety, administer punishment to the offender and rehabilitate the offender.
  3. Provide a range of appropriate sentencing and sanctioning options including incarceration, community supervision, community-based sanctions, and programs.
  4. Steer offenders convicted of less serious crimes into community corrections programs and proven treatment services, rather than confining them in jail or prison.
  5. Provide alternatives to incarceration and conviction for less serious and appropriate offenders, such as deferred prosecution programs and therapeutic courts (drug courts, mental health courts, etc.).
  6. Provide an opportunity to those individuals approaching the end of their confinement sentence to serve the remainder of that sentence in community residential reentry programs.
  7. Implement a range of accountability responses for probation or parole violations; technical violations should not routinely result in imprisonment.
  8. Youth should be adjudicated in the juvenile justice system, except in the rare case of a chronic and violent offender and then only at the discretion of a juvenile court judge. As current brain research tells us, an individual does not possess the capacity for mature judgment until the approximate age of 24.
  9. Conduct rigorous research to evaluate the effects of various sanctions on individuals, communities, the corrections system, and crime reduction.

Reviewed and adopted by the ICCA Board of Directors

Date: October 5, 2018