Advantages of Alternative Sentencing

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What Is Alternative Sentencing?

Traditionally, convicted criminals are put in prison as punishment for their crimes.  However, judges have the options of using other forms of “alternative” sentencing.  These can include work release, house arrest, and community service.  These options offer several advantages over traditional incarceration.

Why Would a Defendant Prefer Alternative Sentencing Over Traditional Punishments?

Work release programs allow the inmate to work in the community during the day, returning to the prison during non-working hours.  This allows the inmate to begin to save money for when they are released from prison.  Also, it lets the inmate get re-integrated into the community, so that they are better able to succeed once actually released.
Alternative sentencing, such as house arrest and community service, also offers advantages to traditional criminal sentencing or incarceration.  First, it keeps families together.  It also allows the offender to continue to help provide for his or her family.

Second, alternative sentencing is often given to juvenile defendants. Minors who are caught in their first crimes are given a chance to rehabilitate, in the hopes that the alternative sentencing will allow the minors to see why their crimes were offensive to their victims. On a few occasions, the defendant may find a future employment opportunity or even a career path.

In addition, sentencing which keeps an offender out of prison is much cheaper for the community.  By one estimate, it is 7 times more expensive to incarcerate a drug offender than to put that offender through a treatment program.  When adding in the benefits gained by programs such as community service, the advantage of alternative sentencing is clear.

Who Can Not Qualify For Alternative Sentencing?

Alternative sentencing is generally not available for violent criminals or those convicted of multiple offenses. Drug offenders are limited in the types of sentencing they may receive.

Do I Have To Serve an Alternative Sentence?

Alternative sentences are just that: alternatives to traditional punishments. Alternative sentencing is not mandatory for the defendants, but only in the sense that the other options are the traditional punishments of fines and prison time. However, judges do have discretion in sentencing, so they are able to offer alternatives where the judges believe are most appropriate.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you have questions about eligibility for alternative sentencing, you should speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney.

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Last Modified: 02-06-2013 10:32 AM PST

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