Expanding Options for Criminal Sentencing

by Joan R. Petersilia

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This report describes a number of new programs that have been developed nationwide in response to crowding in prisons and jails. Some of the programs are designed for adult, prison-bound offenders, most of whom are felons. Others are being used primarily as an alternative to jail for first-time offenders and misdemeanants. The formal programs described include intensive probation supervision; house arrest (with and without electronic monitoring); and shock incarceration, split sentences, and intermittent incarceration. Other innovations that can be used with the more formal programs include community-service sentencing; police-probation cooperatives and community network teams; residential diversion and revocation centers; client-specific sentencing; and victim/offender mediation. All of these programs are designed to be safe, punitive, and less expensive than prison, and the preliminary evidence suggests that they are diverting selected adult offenders to community-based alternatives, without threatening public safety.

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