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The Four Pillars of Sentencing

On Behalf of | Dec 8, 2021 | Criminal Defense

The criminal justice system seeks to protect the public, prevent crime, hold people responsible for breaking the law, support people who suffer from crimes, and enable offenders to return to the community. When an offender is convicted of a crime, the judge is responsible for their sentencing. In some cases, the jury might have an input in the sentencing, especially where death penalty is an option. To sentence offenders, judges consider four pillars namely retribution, rehabilitation, deterrence, and incapacitation. Read on to learn more. 


This pillar seeks to punish the offender for their offence. If the offender puts their victim through pain in some way, the criminal justice system will seek to make the offender suffer in some way. This will balance the scales of justice and ensure that it satisfies the victim’s thirst for revenge. When someone breaks the law, they surrender their right to be imprisoned. If a judge follows this pillar, they may handle a death penalty to a murderer. 


Deterrence seeks to discourage an offender from ever committing a crime. For example, the judge might sentence a repeat DUI offender to a few weeks in jail to ensure they do not repeat the crime. The pillar seeks to help the community. If, for instance, a DUI offender goes to jail for two weeks, it may discourage other people from committing the same crime.


Incapacitation seeks to keep criminals away from the society in a prison. The public will be protected from dangerous people when they are locked away in a prison. The offender will get a lengthy prison sentence. In case of crimes, such as murder, banishment and death penalty can also be a way to incapacitate the criminals. 


Rehabilitation is the pillar that reforms the offender. Its goal is to treat the issues that led to the crime so that the offender can shun their criminal behavior. Drug offenders get this kind of a sentencing. For instance, a person might steal because they have a drug addiction problem. If the judge feels that the addiction can be treated, they can recommend rehabilitation. 


Besides the above, the judge can choose restitution to go with any of the goals above. For instance, if the victim loses money from the crime, the offender will have to repay the money as part of their sentence. The judge will mix all these goals to give the best sentencing.