Case Study #4
Rational Sentencing: Who’s Rationality?
Mary had worked as a probation officer for a little over a year.She had a degree in criminology and criminal justice and was excited about working in probation.After a few weeks of un-programmed on-the-job training, she was pleased that much of her university coursework had given her some basis for the procedural aspect of the work.Mary especially felt that her college instructor, an ex-probation officer, had given her a fairly good grasp of the presentence investigation process (PSI).As a result, she was assigned her own PSI work more quickly than most novices.However, a novice she was, and she hadn’t been given many complex or perplexing cases.
Her last PSI assignment had been a bit more complex than most.She had been assigned a PSI on a sex offender, specifically statutory rape.A 22-year-old male had a month long sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl.When her parents discovered the relationship, they filed charges over the objection of the girl.The defendant had an earlier arrest for disorderly conduct as a result of a fight in a local tavern and a number of speeding tickets; he had worked steadily but had moved from job to job as an auto mechanic.He also admitted to being a recovering drug and alcohol addict.Mary verified his attendance in recovery treatment, and tests showed he was drug and alcohol free.The girl apparently had a difficult relationship with her parents, had dropped out of school, and was a drug and alcohol abuser.She convinced Mary during the PSI process that she was attempting to recover from her addictions and the defendant was the only significant person in her life who was supporting her attempt to recover.The girl also admitted to being sexually active and did not view her relationship with a 22-year-old male as anyone’s business.
Mary collected a great deal of additional information and considered her recommendation.She was in favor of granting the defendant probation on the condition he avoid contact with the 16-year-old.Mary also applied statistical risk prediction model, which helped her conclude the defendant would not be a likely for recidivism.She recommended probation with the condition the defendant would not have any contact with the girl until she turned 18 and presented her recommendation to her supervisor, Brian.
Immediately Brian said, “Mary, I don’t like your recommendation.We don’t like to put sex offenders on probation.”
“This is technically a sex offense,” Mary answered, “but I don’t see any evidence of the defendant digressing and getting involved with young girls as a pattern.I think he and the girls mutual neuroses met, which resulted in their relationship.I think it had more to do with the similar needs and personality disorder they both share.”
“Cool,” Brian said.“What if he meets a 14-year-old who’s a loser like him?”
“Look, Brian, I did a prediction on him, and I really don’t believe there is much of a chance of the repeating itself.”Mary answered “If he keeps his interest in the victim, she will be an adult in about eighteen months and the case is closed.”
Brian closed the file and looked at her “Mary, let me be honest with you.A month before you got here, we took a chance and put a child molester on probation.We did because his parents had a team of lawyers and psychologists testify that he would be OK, and I suspect there were some social links between the prosecutor, the judge, and the family of the creep.The family of the victim seemed charitable and felt the scumbag would benefit from psychiatric guidance.They didn’t want to harm this asshole’s life, the humiliation of being arrested was enough punishment – you know all the arguments.Well the judge went against our unwritten policy and put him on probation.Guess what?He stocked his glove compartment back with candy and was cruising the local elementary school a month after he was on probation.He snatched some kid into his car and fortunately was caught.Unfortunately, the press got hold of the whole thing and we took the heat.”
“But it’s not rational to compare that case with this one.” Mary protested.“It’s apples and oranges.”
“Sure at its essence.But symbolically it’s a sex offense, and the press and all of the holier-than-thou groups are waiting for us to put a sex offender on probation.Believe me, the judge will not put this guy back on the street.Consider him a burnt offering to the public for our last mistake.”
“That’s ugly,: Mary declared.“I can’t let this guy go to prison to satisfy some base political and vindictive needs of the public.The judge is supposed to have the courage to dispense justice, not satisfy the rabble.”
“Easy Mary, that won’t solve anything.” Brian smiled.“Work out a compromise.Why don’t you recommend jail time followed by some form of computer monitoring with probation?”
“Well, this disappoints me.But I guess you are saying if I recommend probation, he is going to prison.”
Brian stood up.The meeting was over.“That’s right.You’re catching on now.”
Case Study Questions
1. What role should political concerns have in decision making?In the case study, should rational guidelines have moiré importance in the decision than potential political concerns?
2. What cultural aspects of the organization’s decision making did Mary learn through this experience?In addition, what limitations are present within “rational” models of decision making when they are implemented within an organization’s culture?
3. In this case study could culture and political concerns be made part of the formal decision making processes?Can these cultural and political concerns be kept out of decision making.Can prediction models address these concerns?
Write a minimum 2-3 pages answering the question(s) posed.The paper should be written in 12 font, Arial or Times New Roman, and double spaced.