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Intermediate Sanctions: Definition, Purpose & Advantages

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  • 0:01 Criminal Sentences
  • 2:19 Intermediate Sanctions
  • 3:42 Types of Intermediate…
  • 5:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ashley Dugger

Ashley is an attorney. She has taught and written various introductory law courses.

Intermediate sanctions are a form of punishment used in the criminal justice system. These criminal sentences fall between probation and incarceration. This lesson explains intermediate sanctions.

Criminal Sentences

When you think about the criminal justice process, you probably think of the trial. However, there are many different phases in the criminal justice process. Some of the most important stuff actually happens after the trial.

After an offender is found guilty by a jury, or pleads guilty to a crime, the process isn't over. The convicted offender then faces sentencing. During this phase, the offender is brought before the judge so that the offender's penalty can be ordered. The penalty, or criminal punishment, is known as the offender's sentence.

There are many different types of sentences. Sentences are typically designed to match the seriousness of the crime. Generally speaking, less serious property crimes, like shoplifting, will result in probation. Probation is a sentence of supervision for a set period of time. It's also often known as community supervision. The convicted defendant is usually given a prison sentence, but the sentence is then 'suspended' during the term of probation. The defendant is overseen by a probation officer and must display good behavior during the probation period or risk having probation revoked by the judge. If probation is revoked, the defendant will be sent to serve the prison sentence. Note that probation is the most common type of sentence, with over four million people on probation in the U.S.

More serious personal crimes, like aggravated assault, will result in incarceration. Incarceration is a sentence of confinement to a prison or jail. There are over two million people in our nation's prisons and jails.

While probation and incarceration are the two most popular sentencing options, they aren't the only two choices. Intermediate sanctions are alternate sentences used to supervise offenders who are neither under the usual restrictions of probation nor incarcerated.

Let's take a closer look at intermediate sanctions.

Intermediate Sanctions

Intermediate sanctions fall between probation and incarceration. They are a type of limitation placed on a convicted offender who is not incarcerated. You can think of intermediate sanctions as a stepped-up or higher level of probation.

Intermediate sanctions are largely a government response to prison overcrowding. We needed a sentencing option to further restrict and monitor the activities of probationers so that more offenders could be released to the community without public safety concerns.

The sanctions are based on the sentencing goal of rehabilitation, which is a type of penalty used to reform the offender and return the offender to society as a law-abiding citizen. Intermediate sanctions alleviate prison overcrowding by allowing more offenders to participate in programs designed to reform the offender while the offender lives as a part of the community.

Additionally, intermediate sanctions help reduce recidivism, or repeated criminal behavior. Because the rehabilitation programs are specifically designed to address the cause of the criminal behavior, such as drug addiction, the offender is less likely to continue participating in criminal behavior.

Types of Intermediate Sanctions

Now let's take a look at the different types of intermediate sanctions. Intermediate sanctions vary by state, though all states use intermediate sanctions. A few of the most common are:

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