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Q: what is the relationship between sentencing and punishment in today's court?
A: Criminal statutes specify the types and amounts of punishment authorized for a given offense, and sometimes even impose a specific penalty (e.g., life in prison without parole, for certain murders) or a minimum penalty (e.g., [ a mandatory minimum prison sentence of at least five years, for persons selling a certain type and quantity of drugs). Criminal codes sometimes further specify the
general purposes that criminal sentences are supposed to serve; however, since these purposes are rarely specified in an exhaustive or detailed manner, courts retain substantial authority to interpret and apply sentencing goals. Five major purposes of punishment have traditionally been recognized: rehabilitation, incapacitation, deterrence, denunciation, and retribution. The first four are designed to prevent crime. Rehabilitation does this through treatment, education, or training of offenders. Incapacitation prevents crime by imprisoning dangerous offenders, thus physically restraining them from committing crimes against the public. Deterrence discourages future crimes by the defendant ("special" deterrence) and by other would-be offenders ("general" deterrence), through fear of punishment. The theory of denunciation (sometimes referred to as the expressive function of punishment, indirect general prevention, or affirmative general prevention) views criminal penalties as a means of defining and reinforcing important social norms of behavior. Given the many difficulties of preventing crime by deterrent threats, incapacitation, or treatment (in particular, the fact that so few offenders are caught and punished—see statistics, presented below), this norm-reinforcement process may be one of the most important crime-preventive effects of punishment. The fifth traditional sentencing goal, retribution, aims not to prevent crime but rather to give defendants their "just deserts" by imposing penalties directly proportional to the seriousness of the offense and the offender's blameworthiness. ]
Expert answered|jher000|Points 4168|
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Asked 7/19/2011 9:45:26 PM
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