Effectiveness Of Incarceration

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Incarceration is an effective sanction for serious offences and serial offenders, while restorative justice is a better suited alternative for minor offences and offenders that can be rehabilitated. The effectiveness of a sanction can be determined by whether a sanction realizes the purposes and principles of sentencing. The objectives of sentencing are outlined in sentencing theories (e.g. retribution and just desserts, deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation and denouncement of the act) (Manson, 2001) and are integral to the sentencing guidelines in the Canadian Criminal Code (1985). These guidelines are given precedence over one another when the judiciary determines an appropriate sanction depending on the circumstances surrounding the offence. Incarceration is effective when the principles of general deterrence, denunciation and incapacitation are given primary consideration. However, when the principles of rehabilitation, reparations, and instilling a sense of responsibility in the offender are most important, restorative justice is a more effective alternative to incarceration. Therefore this paper will evaluate both incarceration and restorative justice within the framework of current sentencing purposes and principles and identify general circumstances wherein each sanction is most effective. Origin of Current Sentencing Purposes and Principles The purposes and principles of sentencing the judiciary uses today are relatively new additions to Canadian law. These recent reforms are relevant to this discussion because they came about as a result of concern for the over use of incarceration as a sanction and resulted in guidelines that advise the use of alternatives. On September 3rd 1996, the federal government passed Bill C-41. This was the first major sentencing reform in Canada. The Bill emerged from two reports that examined sentencing in Canada.

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