There are many questions surrounding the sentencing process in the State of Georgia surrounding several crimes. Why is there a variation in the process depending on where the crime was committed, who committed it, who the victim was, how many cases are on back log? Why do we allow these factors to play a part in the decision making process?
Serious violent crimes are subject to a mandatory minimum in the State of Georgia, if you are convicted of one of the seven deadly sins which consist of (Murder, Rape, Aggravated Sodomy, Aggravated Child Molestation, Aggravated Sexual Battery, Armed Robbery and Kidnapping) you are guaranteed to serve 100% of your sentence (Timothy S Carr, 2008). The thing we must remember is the statement reads mandatory minimum, who make the decision on the maximum and why is it not the same all the way around?
In 1995 the State of Georgia entered into the Truth in Sentencing (TIS) program with the federal government allowing them to receive payment for tougher punishments. The “Seven deadly sins” law was passed and for the first time a first offense, a non-parolable sentence of at least ten years for kidnapping, armed robbery, rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated sexual battery, and aggravated child molestation. Minimum sentence for first offense of murder is life, with no parole eligibility for 25 years. Second offense of any of the “seven deadly sins” gets life without possibility of parole.
The monies received from the program is supposed to offset the cost of building more prisons to accommodate the longer sentencing (Timothy S Carr, 2008). One of the prison terms extended was armed robbery. In this paper I will address the charge of armed robbery and talk about some of the different sceneries surrounding the charge and the sentencing associated with it. One thing that will remain the same is, no matter how you change what happen, if you are charged with the crime and convicted, the minimum amount of time you will receive is ten years nothing less, but the question also remaining is why is it okay for some individuals to receive more time than others.
Currently in the State of Georgia there are 5,334 offenders serving a sentence for armed robbery with a sentence of at least ten years with no possibility of parole (Inmate Statistical Profile , 2011). What we need to look at is should individual charged and convicted of this crime be treated the same, whether they produced the hand gun, was the lookout person or was the driver? Or should there be discretion in the decision making process?
Scenario one: Joe Doe had been in Atlanta for one week and he attend a party with his boss in Cobb County in 2006. At the party Joe got drunk and invaded the comfort zones of several women with a camera. He was asked to leave the party and because he had rode with his boss, his boss and another friend drove him home. On the way he became upset and enraged about being asked to leave. His boss called 911 and pulled out a pocket knife and threatened him for calling. His boss gave him the phone and he threw it to the floor of the car.
His boss pulled the car over to the shoulder on the interstate and they got into a physical altercation. Police arrived and Joe Doe who has no prior record was charged and convicted at trial of armed robbery of two cellphones. In which he received 10 years in prison with no possibility of parole (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2010). Scenario two: Mr Pitts, Mr. Chapman, Mr Brown and Mr. Randolph all came up with a plan to rob Auto Zone. During the journey to find a stolen car Mr Chapman got scared and asked to be dropped off. The other three gentlemen proceeded to find a stolen and car and drove out to Auto Zone on Cobb Parkway.
Mr. Pitts stayed in the car while the other two individuals went into the store and rob it and everyone inside. During the commission of the robbery one of the robbers asked all the customers and employees to move to the back of the store and into a closet so they would be secure. After they were finished they proceeded to the car Mr. Pitts was driving and rode off. Driving down Cobb Parkway a police officer saw the car speeding down the street and stopped them. During the stop the police officer suspected something was wrong and asked all the individuals to step out of the car.
During his search he found a large sum of money in all 1’s, 5’s 10’s and 20’s in the crotch of one of the individuals pants, after questioning them all individually the office took the money and let all the suspect go with a ticket. Later that day the police officer put two and two together with the robbery and the money and all the individuals were arrested including Mr. Chapman and charged with Armed Robbery, Aggravated Assault and False Imprisonment. Ultimatly Mr. Chapman got off because he was not at the scene of the crime. Mr Pitts was sentenced to 20 years, Mr.
Brown was sentenced to 10 years and Mr. Randolph was sentenced to 30 years all sentenced without the possibility of parole (BLACKBURN, 2000). Scenario three: Jordan Harris held a gun to the clerk and three different stores, demanding money which he need for the purchase on drugs on the same night in 2009. He was sentenced to two life sentences to be served concurrently (Bleau, 2011) In all three of these very different scenarios the cases were completely different yielding very different outcomes yet each of them with at least ten years in prison.
So I guess the question now would be does it work. Now we are incarceration people for longer periods of time, does it work? Does incarceration reduce recidivism? Does length of sentence affect recidivism? Does early release affect recidivism? While according to research offenders released from longer sentences commit fewer crimes after being released from prison and those with shorter jail terms tend to re-commit. According to figures, only a third of offenders given sentences between two and four years went back to crime within a year (Whitehead, 2011).
In 2006, Italy passed a Collective Clemency Bill that set free all prison inmates who had less than three years left on their sentences. However, the law stipulated that if the former inmates were convicted of any crime within the next five years, the remainder of their suspended sentence would be added to whatever sentence they received for their future crime. The law gave researchers the chance to study the direct effect of the threat of longer sentences on the recidivism rates for the former inmates. They checked on the inmates seven months after their release from prison. The findings of the study included:
Inmates with longer suspended sentences — and therefore longer expected sentences for new crimes — were less likely to be re-arrested than those with shorter suspended sentences. •Even a small increase in the expected sentence – as low as one month – was enough to reduce recidivism slightly, 1. 3 percent. •The deterrent effect was consistent across all age groups and genders of former prison inmates. “These results corroborate the general theory of deterrence,” the authors wrote. “Increasing the expected sentence by 50 percent should reduce recidivism rates by about 35 percent in seven months.
The study all found that inmates convicted of more serious original crimes were not affected at all by the threat of longer sentence. In other words, the more dangerous inmates are not deterred by the threat of stiffer penalties (Charles Montaldo). In conclusion who makes the decision that a prisoner who served 10 years is somehow more prepared to return to society than a prisoner who served eight years has never made sense to me. Some inmates may indeed pose significant threats to society and belong inside locked boundaries.
But our prison system confines tens of thousands of minimum-security prisoners at a huge cost to taxpayers. It is a national scandal that nearly half of all offenders reoffend within a year of release. Sentences must properly punish offenders as well as address the causes of their offending so that they are ready to go straight once their punishment has ended. ” We have to try to break this destructive, costly cycle by training offenders. Not only do they increase their own skills and long-term employment prospects, they create a positive cycle by becoming credible role models and hopefully good people.