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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 76993 Find in a Library
Title: Fines as an Alternative to Incarceration - The German Experience
Journal: Federal Probation  Volume:44  Issue:4  Dated:(December 1980)  Pages:20-26
Author(s): R W Gillespie
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 7
Sponsoring Agency: Illinois Investors in Business Education
Chicago, IL 60603
National Institute of Justice/
Rockville, MD 20849
University of Illinois-Urbana
Urbana, IL 61801
Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/
NCJRS paper reproduction
Box 6000, Dept F
Rockville, MD 20849
United States of America
Document: PDF
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The West German provision for the frequent use of fines as an alternative to incarceration is described.
Abstract: The continuing commitment to incarceration as the primary means of U.S. social control of crime in the United States stands in sharp contrast to contemporary penal reform in European countries, where the major focus has shifted to a more extensive and innovative use of fines. Current West German laws which reflect that country's increasing interest in resocialization rather than retribution have replaced prison terms of less than 6 months with fines or probation in all but exceptional cases. A key factor has been the establishment of the 'penal order,' which is a form of summary prosecution and sentencing available to the prosecutor for less serious offenses. On the basis of the police investigation, and in some cases their own, prosecutors may determine guilt and levy a fine -with judicial approval. If the accused objects, the penal order is set aside and the case goes to trial. As a result, prosecutorial resources are saved for use in more serious crimes. Another means of moving from imprisonment to fines has been the day-fine system (a Scandinavian innovation). Fine sentencing is divided into two distinct decisions; the number of day fines is assigned according to the degree of guilt and gravity of the offense; and a unit value is assigned to the day fine for the particular offender based on economic status. The offender's income, realizable assets, actual standard of living, maintenance responsibilities, normal expenditures, and family situation are considered. Data tables demonstrate that fines are used extensively for a wide range of offenses, inlcuding many which would be considered moderately serious to serious in nature. The widespread use of fines has not resulted in higher rates for crime or for incarceration for fine default, and it has contributed to a more humanitarian and less costly system of punishment. Criticisms are reviewed, and a five-item reference list is included.
Index Term(s): Alternatives to institutionalization; Fines; Germany; Sentencing reform
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