This paper presents an analysis of the sentencing remarks of twenty six men with a fine collection of key offences, describing their content with the sentencing they received. The aim of the study was to observe how legal justifications were connected to the theories of punishment (202).
Ninety percent of men who were sentenced arrived in the court room with an agreed recommendation or a cap, majority of who did not express remorse or admit guilt. Two thirds of defence attorneys offered positive comments about their client and one third of them cited drug addiction and alcoholism as the defendant’s major problem. Judges were not optimistic that the accused would change: Only two thirds of judges offered a justification for sentencing (203).
A number of gender differences were evident in the rulings. First, more men arrived in the court room with agreed recommendations or a cap as compared to women (205). Secondly, despite the fact that drugs and alcoholism were stated as the defendant’s major problem for more women than men, judges still gave more positive and optimistic remarks on women than men (206).
Thirdly, while the judges lectured men more when sentenced to non-jail terms than when incarcerated, they lectured most of the women equally whether they were sentenced to jail or not. Furthermore, women admitted guilt more easily than men which could be the reason why the officials thought they were more re-formable than their male counter parts (229).
Although some of the cases presented were passionate and poignant, this did not deter the sentencing that was passed by the judges (206, 207). The judges did not consider factors that were cited for pleas (such as minority, self defence or hardships) but they maintained that harm caused had to be punished (208, 209). Retribution and deterrence are the two principles that the judges followed in sentencing the verdicts, regardless of whether they were male or female (211).
Most of the sentences that depicted retribution also comprised of special deterrence—the sentencing remarks for Barry, Maurice, Lester, and Ralph demonstrate how justifications based on the harm can be either stretched or constricted depending on individual qualities (212). The case of Barry also illustrates that a victim’s photograph showing the injury caused provides sufficient evidence for passing a sentence (212).
Non jail sentences were mostly passed in cases where the defendant was a pawn in crime initiated by another or defended himself largely—such as in the case of Richie and Shane (217, 218). However, there were some factors that determined the kind of jail term the offenders were sentenced to. Such factors included evidence of good morals, presence or absence of prior convictions, the circumstances surrounding the occurrence of the crime, and the defendant’s social background (218).
After classifying the men convicted in the cases presented, seven were classified as troublemakers; Ron, Andrew, Carl, Clarence, Simon and Charles. Troublemakers were divided between men moving into lawbreaking and street men while those considered as re-formable characters found themselves in the court room by pathways distinct from street life (224).
The other nine were classified as hardened criminals and a threat to society; Jack, Antonio, Wayne, Lester, Casey, Ronnie and Barry. Officials considered the cases represented by Scott, Riche, Georges, Maurice, Shane, Ralph and Larry as incidents which were “out of control” (223) and viewed the defendants as re-formable. Finally, the evidences in the cases of Wade, Tyrone, and Enrico were too meagre to constitute proper sentencing (223).
There was evidence of racial differences in the judgments; whereas four of five white convicts were considered re-formable, only three out of eighteen black convicts were considered so (225). Conversely, black women did not differ with white women in their potential to reform. Although the sentencing judge defined harm depending on the level of physical injury caused, other factors such as the relationship between the victim and offender, the victims’ wishes for sentence and the victims’ responsibility for restitution were crucial in determining their verdict. The practices of sentencing in new haven felony court support Morris hybrid model (1981) of harm-based contemplations (230).
The procedure of sentencing criminals used was fair because there were no gender biases that were made while passing sentences: What mattered were retribution, restitution and deterrence. It is evident that there are more hardened criminals who are black than white and those female criminals (whether white or black) are more re-formable. The theories of punishment were well linked with the judicial justifications of the cases studied since the aspects of retribution, deterrence and restitution were the major determinants of the rulings.
Kathleen, D. (1994). Justifying the punishment of men. Gender, crime and punishment. New
Haven: Yale University Press.