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Sentencing Alternatives - Development, Implementation Issues and Evaluation

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 68 Issue: 6 Dated: (December-January 1985) Pages: 210-219
P W Harris; A T Harland
Date Published
It is difficult to determine whether or not sentencing alternatives intended as alternatives to incarceration are effective unless goals are well-defined and a carefully planned process of implementation exists.
The small amount of empirical evidence available indicates that most recent reform efforts have not resulted in the use of alternative dispositions for offenders who would previously have been incarcerated. Instead, sanctions such as restitution and community service appear to have been used almost entirely as additional conditions imposed on offenders who would otherwise have received more traditional probation orders. Depending on whether the goal is reducing the prison population or making offenders more accountable to their victims, the reforms will be seen as either a failure or a success. In addition, more attention is being focused on the process of implementing reforms, as a result of the recognition that the method of implementation may influence the success of a reform more than does the substantive design. The extent of implementation also should be measured. A useful conceptual approach has been to describe implementation as a series of phases, each with its own goals, obstacles, and task structures. Using a sentencing commission is one possible way of maintaining a broad perspective from outside the basic decisionmaking structure. In addition, continuing a dialogue about normative goals and developing a clearer awareness of the organizational and political context in which reform occurs may aid both the development and implementation of sentencing options. A total of 34 footnotes are supplied.