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The process thru which a sentencing authority imposes a lawful punishment or other sanction on a person convicted of violating the criminal law

Just deserts

A model of criminal sentencing that holds that criminal offenders deserve the punishment they receive at the hands of the state and that suggests that punishments should be appropriate to the type and severity of crime committed


The act of taking revenge on a criminal perpetrator; the most punishment-oriented of all sentencing goals, retribution clams that we are justified in punishing offenders b/c they deserve it


A goal of criminal sentencing that seeks to prevent others from committing crimes similar to the one for which an offender is being sentenced

Specific deterrence

A goal of criminal sentencing that seeks to prevent a particular offender from engaging in repeat criminality

General deterrence

A goal of criminal sentencing that seeks to prevent others from committing crimes similar to the one for which a particular offender is being sentenced by making an example of the person sentenced


The attempt to reform a criminal offender; also, the state in which a reformed offender is said to be


A sentencing goal that seeks to make victims and the community "whole again"

Restorative justice

A sentencing model that builds on restitution and community participation in an attempt to make the victim "whole again"


The use of imprisonment or other means to reduce the likelihood that an offender will be capable of committing future offenses

Habitual offender

A person sentenced under the provisions of a statute declaring that those who are convicted of a given offense and are shown to have previously been convicted of another specified offense(s) shall receive a more severe penalty than that for the current offense alone

Career offender

Under federal sentencing guidelines, a person who (1) is at least 18 yrs. of age at the time of the most recent offense, (2) is convicted of a felony that is either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense, and (3) has at least two prior felony convictions of either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense

Three-strikes legislation

Statutory provisions that mandate lengthy prison terms for criminal offenders convicted of a third violent crime or felony

Selective incapacitation

A sentencing strategy that imprisons or otherwise removes from society a select group of offenders, especially those considered to be most dangerous

Indeterminate sentence

A relatively unspecific term of incarceration stated as a minimum and maximum time to be served (such as a term of imprisonment of "from one to ten years")

Consecutive sentence

One of two or more sentences imposed at the same time, after conviction for more than one offense, and served in sequence with the other sentences

Concurrent sentence

One of two or more sentences imposed at the same time, after conviction for more than one offense, and to be served simultaneously

Determinate sentence

A fixed term of incarceration specified by law; also called presumptive or fixed sentence


A sentencing principle that holds that the severity of sanctions should bear a direct relationship to the seriousness of the crime committed


A sentencing principle, based on concerns with social equality, that holds that similar crimes should be punished with the same degree of severity, regardless of the social or personal characteristics of the offenders

Social debt

A sentencing principle that objectively counts an offender's criminal history in sentencing decisions

Aggravating factor

A circumstance relating to the commission of a crime that causes its gravity to be greater than that of the avg instance of the given type of offense; also, an element of an offense or of an offender's background that could result in a harsher sentence under the determinate sentencing model than would otherwise be called for by sentencing guidelines

Mitigating factor

A circumstance surrounding the commission of a crime that does not in law justify or excuse the act but that in fairness may be considered as reducing the blameworthiness of the offender; also, an element of an offense or offender's background that could result in a lesser sentence under the determinate sentencing model than would otherwise be called for by sentencing guidelines

Truth in sentencing

"A close correspondence btwn the sentence imposed upon those sent to prison and the time actually served prior to prison release"

Plea bargaining

The process of negotiating an agreement among the defendant, the prosecutor, and the court as to what an appropriate plea and associated sentence should be in a given case


A sentence of imprisonment that is suspended; also, the conditional freedom granted by a judicial officer to an adjudicated or adjudged adult or juvenile offender, as long as the person meets certain conditions of behavior

Hate crime

A criminal offense in which the defendant's conduct was motivated by hatred, bias, or prejudice, based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, nat'l origin, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation of another individual or group of individuals; also called bias crime

Capital punishment

The imposition of a sentence of death

Intermediate sanctions

The use of split sentencing, shock probation and parole, home confinement, shock incarceration, and community service in lieu of other, more traditional, sanctions, such as imprisonment and fines,; intermediate sanctions are becoming increasingly popular as prisons become more crowded; also called alternative sanctions

Split sentence

A sentence explicitly requiring the convicted person to serve a period of confinement in a local, state, or federal facility, followed by a period of probation

Shock probation

The practice of sentencing offenders to prison, allowing them to apply for probationary release, and granting release in surprise fashion; offenders who receive shock probation may not be aware that they will be released on probation and may expect to spend much longer tie behind bars

Shock incarceration

A sentencing option that makes use of "boot camp"-type prisons in order to impress on convicted offenders the realities of prison life

Mixed sentence

A sentence that requires a convicted offender to serve weekends (or other specified periods of time) in a confinement facility (usually a jail), while undergoing probation supervision in the community

Community service

A sentencing alternative that requires offenders to spend at least part of their time working for a community agency

Intensive supervision

A form of probation supervision involving frequent face-to-face contacts btwn the probationary client and probation officers

Home confinement

A form of punishment in which individuals are confined to their home and may be monitored electronically to be sure they do not leave during the hours of confinement; absence from the home during working hours is often permitted; also called house arrest

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