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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 76392 Find in a Library
Title: Alternatives to Imprisonment - An International Perspective
Journal: Criminal Justice Abstracts  Volume:13  Issue:1  Dated:(March 1981)  Pages:134-148
Author(s): A Newton
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 15
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article reviews the correctional systems of several countries, focusing on sentencing patterns and alternatives to incarceration.
Abstract: Imprisonment in Sweden is justifiable only to protect society from the most serious kinds of offenders, and correctional trends emphasize community-based programs, decriminalization of minor offenses, and shorter sentences. The use of fines based on the seriousness of the crime and the offender's financial resources has risen sharply. Finland has returned to a retributive concept of punishment from a rehabilitative outlook, although prison populations are being reduced. Fines, police warnings, and restitution through community service are used increasingly. Denmark has also shifted toward fines, suspended sentences, and probation. Since 1973, prison sentences have been applied more carefully and for shorter periods to avoid overcrowding. Although the Netherlands has few alternatives to imprisonment, it has the world's lowest incarceration rate. The Dutch feel that prison has no beneficial effect on the offender and rely on fines and short determinate sentences. Their prison population has declined steadily, while the use of fines and probation has increased dramatically. Innovative alternatives to confinement in Italy are trial custody, which is similar to probation in the United States, and day release. Great Britain has had noncustodial programs for offenders since the late 19th century but has emphasized community service programs since 1972. Fines are the most common disposition in criminal cases in England, while probation is used infrequently. New Zealand developed the concept of periodic detention, which requires an offender to report to a center for a specified period each week. Because prison has been ineffective in controlling crime, Australia has adopted correctional alternatives from Great Britain and New Zealand, such as fines and periodic detention. Canada has moved to reduce its prison population through fines and community work programs. Japan has a modern prison system along Western lines and relies on fines, probation, and suspended sentences as alternatives to prison. However, the prison remains the principal component of penal systems in Africa and Latin America. Although the U.S. has developed a wide range of sentencing alternatives, such as probation, restitution, and community service projects, it continues to have one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. Overall, these data suggest that not all alternative programs have been successful and some have had undesirable side-effects. Approximately 50 footnotes are provided.
Index Term(s): Alternatives to institutionalization; Australia; Canada; Community-based corrections (adult); Correctional facilities; Correctional reform; Finland; Germany; Great Britain/United Kingdom; Italy; Japan; Netherlands; New Zealand; Sentencing reform; Sweden; United States of America
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