Rick Cofer has worked as a juvenile criminal defense attorney for the past few decades. During this time, he’s developed a considerable amount of expertise within the legal system. Through this, he’s noted that there are a variety of things that are done well, although he notes that there are a few issues within the criminal justice system. One of the most notable of that he has highlighted is that of determinate sentences. As it stands, judges can give one of three types of sentence; probation, determinate, and indeterminate, each of which have a variety of advantages and disadvantages.
With a determinate sentence, an inmate will be given a set term with no possibility of parole. This is the case regardless of the offense. Rick Cofer Law notes that there are a few different problems with this. The most notable of these is that he claims it may work against one of the core philosophies behind the justice system; that of rehabilitation. While many inmates will engage with rehabilitation programs during their incarceration, Cofer notes that those who are given a determinate sentence may choose not to. This is because, without the possibility of parole, these inmates lack an incentive to do so.
The inherent lack of flexibility with a determinate sentence means that there may be little room for an inmate to grow or change as a person. Rick Cofer notes that this is because the system may not treat inmates based on their merits during their incarceration. While punishment is an obvious factor in criminal justice, Cofer suggests that this should go hand-in-hand with rehabilitation. This is primarily driven by the fact that rehabilitation reduces the risk of recidivism once an inmate has been released. In a variety of states, it’s been shown that inmates who engage rehabilitation programs are significantly less likely to re-offend.
However, Rick Cofer Law notes that one of the key principals behind this is incentivizing an inmate to engage with these programs. This is something that a determinate sentence may lack; regardless of whether an inmate engages with these programs, they’ll have to serve the same amount of time. This is where problems may arise, according to Cofer. These rehabilitation initiatives encourage inmates to learn from the mistakes that led to their crimes; as a result, they may be considerably less likely to repeat these offenses once they’re released. By offering another reason to learn from these programs, such as with a reduced sentence, Cofer notes that an inmate may begin to become a better person.
This may not be possible with a determinate sentence, according to Rick Cofer. In many of the states that have shown a reduced recidivism rate, it’s been highlighted that much of this was done with an indeterminate sentence. This is where an inmate will serve a minimum sentence before being offered a chance at parole. This review will look at whether the inmate has learned and grown through their rehabilitation and decide whether to reduce their sentence accordingly. With a determinate sentence, however, this will not be the case.