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Key Legislative Issues in Criminal Justice: Intermediate Sanctions

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1997
6 pages
Publication Series
This paper discusses the origins and goals of intermediate sanctions, their effects on crime reduction and criminal justice sentencing practices, and their costs; it concludes with an analysis of future policy issues.
Intermediate sanctions are intended to expand sentencing options that will better match the severity of punishment to the severity of the crime. They are also intended to permit more rational allocation of correctional and sanctioning resources to safely supervise petty offenders in community programs while confining serious offenders. The primary forms of intermediate sanctions are intensive supervision programs, home confinement, community service orders, prison boot camps, day fines, and day reporting centers. To date, use of these sanctions has not achieved anticipated benefits. Only a few programs in a few jurisdictions have been evaluated, and it is not clear whether evaluated programs fairly represent broader practice. Evidence suggests that intensive supervision programs and community service have not rehabilitated or deterred participants from committing future crimes any better than traditional sentencing options. Positive results on recidivism rates have been found for home detention and electronic monitoring. Boot camp research has been inconclusive. Problems with intermediate sanction programs may be attributed to design flaws, constraints in the local environment, and insufficient control over how and on what type of offender the sanctions are imposed. The cost of operating these programs has often exceeded expectations. In spite of mixed results on the effectiveness of intermediate sanctions, their continuation is warranted, because they enable more rational allocation of correctional and sanctioning resources. The availability of more alternative sentencing choices should limit the inappropriate use of either probation or confinement. 17 notes

Date Published: January 1, 1997