Philosophical Underpinnings of Sentencing
Briefly introduce the six ideological and theoretical underpinnings of sentencing and correctional policy: retribution, incapacitation, deterrence, rehabilitation, restorative justice, and reintegration. Have students spend 5 min identifying the most prevalent philosophy used in sentencing the following crimes: drug distribution, rape, homicide, and DUI. As an added writing activity, ask students to think of examples where multiple philosophies might apply to sentencing and craft a 1-min paper to support their argument.
Application of Sentencing Models
Before class, pull a newspaper article on a recent criminal court case from your local region and make the story available to the class (e.g., printed copies, through learning management system).
Begin the class discussion by asking students to apply criminological theory to criminal behavior, reminding students of the six theories highlighted in the Hanser text (i.e., individual traits, classical theory and behavioral psychology, operant conditioning, reinforcers and punishments, social learning, and anomie/strain). You may want to use a polling software or tally the number of endorsements for each theoretical explanation.
Next, distribute the newspaper article or ask students to access the electronic file. After students have had a chance to read the report, ask students which sentencing model was implemented and discuss the following: Based on what is presented in the media report, which sentencing model was most important in the final outcome? What alternative would you suggest for this case if a different sentencing model were pursued? How was the case portrayed in the media (for a more in-depth assignment students could compare the media coverage with actual court documents)?