Talking Back

You Be the Judge

P.O.V. invites You to Be the Judge. Click here to begin the activity now.

Many things influence how we understand crime and how we decide what punishments are appropriate including, personal experience, the media, politics, etc. And for many of us, the criminal justice system remains a mystery. Here's a chance to probe your own sense of right and wrong, crimes and punishments.

You Be the Judge is an activity designed to dig deeper than sound bites to allow visitors to apply their own values to situations often confronted by the justice system. Using five hypothetical crime scenarios, the activity asks you to explore your personal ideas about crime and punishment by selecting the punishment you believe is most appropriate for the crime described. You can compare your responses to other visitors, and at the end, you can see how three sample states with varying laws deal with the same crimes. Please continue on to share your own ideas and perspectives about criminal justice and how it has impacted your life by Talking Back to P.O. V.

To begin, please review the punishments described below, and then continue to the crimes. You may also link to the glossary, meet the filmmaker, or explore other resources around the issue. Now take the gavel and explore your own sense of justice.

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The six punishment options below represent a range of sentencing options now generally available in the U.S. Options vary widely from state to state, and not all are available in every state. In addition, judges have varying degrees of flexibility in interpreting sentencing options for convicted criminals. For example, in many of the 24 states with "Three Strikes" laws, sentencing for a 3rd strike offense is generally within a fixed set of options, with little or no flexibility for judges. For 1st and 2nd offenses, in these states and others, some crimes carry mandatory penalties while others allow judges some flexibility within limits set by the legislature. The cost estimates of the punishments varies from probation, which is the least expensive, to prison, which is the costliest.
 Probation Probation: Generally used for less serious offenses, probation is classified as 'regular' or 'intensive', ranging from supervision once a month to once a day, with meetings for up to two years. Intensive probation also includes random drug and alcohol tests. About 60% of U.S. offenders are on probation.  
Probation With Restitution Probation with Restitution: Generally under the category of intensive probation, offenders are strictly supervised, as well as performing community service and/or paying damages or medical bills for the victim, which can be garnished from wages or gathered by other means.
House Arrest House Arrest: Offenders are confined to their homes 24 hours a day for up to one year, excepting permission to go to work or school. Random checks and electronic monitoring are used, as are random alcohol and drug tests.
Boot Camp Boot Camp: Most often used for younger offenders, the sentences range from three to six months in a military-style camp where offenders are subjected to strict discipline and work. Some camps offer job-training and other educational opportunities.
Prison With Parole Prison/Jail with Parole: Incarceration in a correctional institution, either jail or prison. Jail is generally used for sentences of one year or less, although this varies around the nation. Offenders are considered for parole release after a percentage of time has been served.
Prison Without Parole Prison without Parole: Incarceration in a prison without the opportunity to apply for parole after a percentage of time is served.
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