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Alternatives to Imprisonment

In the last twenty years, a rapid growth in the number of prisoners has become a global tendency. This growth is not the consequence of any particular type of jurisdiction or political system - it is observed in all regions of the world. For example, in the United States, the number of inmates in prisons has increased from half a million in 1980 to 2.3 million in 2012.

A sense of imprisonment is based on a presumption that the person who committed the crime, values personal freedom above everything else, and the threat of putting him in prison can be a crime deterrent factor. In practice, such deterrent effect is quite minimal. Moreover, experience shows that imprisonment has a negative impact on the perpetrators, because the prison plays the role of "school of crime".

The use of imprisonment as a punishment varies from country to country. In some countries, imprisonment is applied only to those who have committed serious crimes. In other countries, it was decided to apply the punishment for a large number of offenders who commit even minor crimes (for example, in the USA, «petty crime» is a minor assault, which is punishable by imprisonment for less than 6 months - term, including the mentally ill male and female juveniles).


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The consequence of mass imprisonment is the problem of overcrowding in prisons, the failure of governments to guarantee the basic human rights of prisoners and work to achieve the main goal: social rehabilitation of prisoners and their preparation for the return to the community, as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights clearly establishes it as an essential goal of their social rehabilitation (Vass, 1990). If the perpetrators that have done not very serious offenses are not sentenced to prison, the prison authorities have more resources to work effectively with those offenders for whom prison is the only variant for punishment.

In this regard the reduction of the number of prisoners by the use of alternative measures to imprisonment is considered as a crucial issue. There are various alternatives to incarceration. They can be used in place of the trial, at the stage of trial or sentencing and after sentencing. UN Standard Minimum Rules in respect to non-custodial Measures (The Tokyo Rules) encourage the subjects of law in this area to consider the possibility of their use in the first place. This position is expressed also in the Recommendations of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on the issue of prison overcrowding and increase of the number of prisoners (Gelb, & Victoria, 2011).

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The practice of realization of the above recommendations of the international community varies in different countries. They are not accepted by all states and the number of prisoners continues to rapidly grow.

An important point in the development of new democracies in recent years is the reform of penitentiary system. Democratic countries have a number of important reforms that are aimed to bring the prison system into compliance with international standards. In Eastern, Central Europe and Asia, more and more issues of implementing alternatives to imprisonment have been recently discussed. Many countries have come to the conclusion that imprisonment as a punitive measure is harmful for the individual and is not effective for society. Prisons are not an effective way to combat crime as imprisonment has negative social consequences, not only for the individual but also to society as a whole.

Numerous researches have been conducted in a number of countries over the past two decades which concerned disadvantages of imprisonment, its negative effects on the prospects of future employment of convicts and their social adaptation. As a result of these studies, it was found that the frequent use of imprisonment inevitably leads to problems of compliance of political, social and human rights, which results in the movement for the reform and development of alternative forms of punishment. Imprisonment is considered to be a form of deprivation of personal liberty.

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The deprivation of liberty of a large number of offenders, who have not committed serious crimes, is neither adequate criminal policy nor a good choice for the state. The consequence of this is the destruction of social ties, the deterioration of public health and moral climate of society. The economic aspect of the problem is also important, as maintenance of prison is very expensive (McMahon, 1992).

Undoubtedly, XXI century raises the issue of new types of penalties that would respect human rights, go beyond the usual practice, be effective and efficient, and release the penal system from the narrow limits that constrain it in most countries today.

Thus, problem of humanization of justice is very relevant. This humanistic direction (the use of non-custodial sentence) reduces the negative effects of the real application of imprisonment for convicts and for society as a whole, while promoting the implementation of the principle of inevitability of punishment. The generally recognized arguments for reducing prescribing imprisonment lies in the fact that it makes it easier to adapt the convicts to a law-abiding way of life, not to break their useful social networks, reduce the number of prisoners in penal facilities and thus reduce recidivism.

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At the end of XIX century the feasibility of widespread use of deprivation of liberty and attempts to find alternatives to this form of punishment have been broadly discussed in the world criminology, criminal justice and penal science. Imprisonment is contrasted to short-term detention as more appropriate form of punishment.

In 1895 Paris Congress passed a resolution according to which short-term placement of judicial reprimand were recommended, which provided the same value as the suspended sentence, but the continued growth of short-term sentences, an evident lack of a inability to achieve in the short term corrective effects of damage in a short term random criminals observed prisoners professionals - all led to the revision of the question for alternatives to detention.

Thus, in the framework of the United Nations at the First United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (Geneva, 1955) the attention of the publicity was drawn to the importance of a non-custodial sentence. Among the institutions executing criminal punishment, open prisons and educational institutions were chosen, which were considered to eventually become a real alternative to places of detention.

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According to the participants of the Congress, the main advantage of open institutions is that they have broad possibilities of social rehabilitation of convicts, ensuring that their physical and mental health and living conditions in these institutions are significantly closer to normal lifestyle, and the contacts with the outside the world are not only preserved, but also improved with the help of the administration (lost socially useful communications are restored).

The classification of the alternative sentences is built according to alternative penalties which are applied. In this regard they can be divided into three groups: a) penalties associated with a material impact on the convicted person, or, monetary penalties, b) the sanctions which do not imply supervision and control, and c) punishment associated with control of prisoners by special agents of jurisdiction.

The most common punishment of the first group include fine, pledge, the compensatory sanctions, confiscation of property, punishment, of any rights deprivation. The second group of punishments contains a warning, a full exemption, conditional release, probation with supervision, a delay of execution, the complete liberation of the court (applies to minors); awkward exemption (provided that the accused will not commit illegal acts repeatedly over certain period of time), subscription on keeping law-abiding behaviour.

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The third group of punishments, which are related to the supervision and control of the convicts, comprises of conditional sentence with supervision, probation (test) public works, special treatment, special care, house arrest, electronic house arrest.

Generally, the most commonly used alternative to imprisonment include community services (scavenging, work in the field, help in the maintenance of municipal services) under probation. It is believed that these alternative measures can reduce the percentage of recurrence; reduce the workload on the staff of the penitentiary system and the cost of maintenance of prisoners.

The criteria for identifying alternative punishment is a prescribed status as long with the deprivation of freedom on an equal footing with its determination of liability on a person who convicted a crime and is used instead of imprisonment, and not parallel to it, with the other criminal acts.

The term "alternative punishment" is not always understood by the law enforcement agencies. They regard them mainly as complementary penalties that can be a means of individualization of the punishment and application of the cumulative penalties, supplementing the main punishment. These include the deprivation of a special, military or honorary title, class rank and state awards (Zvekic?, U., & United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, 1994).

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Like any system, the subsystem of alternative criminal sanctions has its own characteristic features .It is formed on the basis of the general principles and objectives of the common system of criminal penalties. It expresses the principle of humanity of criminal punishment. It demonstrates the principle of economy of criminal repression. It allows keeping up to the principle of differentiation and individualization of punishment. And lastly, it reflects the integration ties of criminal law and punishment system with the international standards (Murtagh, 2012).

European democracies demonstrate the efficacy and various advantages of using alternative to imprisonment. In Sweden, house arrest is used as a form of punishment for convicted for the less than three months - term. According to Swedish statistics, the newly committed crimes after imprison constitute 24% of convicts, and after the house arrest – they make up 13%. In addition, the implementation of prison sentences without paying tax is much cheaper.

House arrest is seen as a measure of restraint. To avoid overcrowding in detention facilities, courts often apply house arrest and other measures of restraint for the suspects. Restriction of freedom was form of punishment associated with isolation from society. Now it has become similar to the above preventive measure, house arrest, as well as criminal sanctions in the form of house arrest, which is used in some countries. The restriction of freedom is now being executed in criminal executive inspection (Bondeson, 2002).

Given the emergence of mechanisms for implementation of these innovations control persons can be hired for control of the restriction of freedom. This will help in electronic bracelets attached to the system GPS (GNSS). Audio-visual controls can also be used. Experts predict annually that about a hundred thousand people will be sentenced by this kind of punishment.

In the Czech Republic, the following measures are seen as the alternatives to imprisonment: community service, the conditional rotation and arrest of judgment, a fine, forfeiture to hold certain positions or engage in certain activities, deprivation of a special military or honorary titles, community service and correctional labour, military service restrictions, confiscation of property , the restriction of freedom (Junger-Tas, J., & Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek- en Documentatiecentrum.,1994).

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The use of technical means of control over prisoners is especially urgent. At this point in the criminal-executive system a problem with the necessary resources: financial resources, paper, office equipment, etc. This problem is particularly acute in rural areas, where poorly developed transport and communications infrastructure, not to mention the difficulties will be the introduction of technological innovations.

Definition of the concept of restriction of freedom in the Criminal Code can personalize this type of punishment. It all depends on, how carefully the offender is to be studied, the social characteristics of the criminal process, and, in the end, as the judges will use this type of punishment. It is essential that the punishment had the punishment for the crime, achieve their goals, and not become just some inconveniences in daily life of convicts.

On the other hand, it would not develop the tendency of non-custodial sentence, to do without the penalty of deprivation of liberty for a very long time still can not be, because for all the shortcomings and contradictions of imprisonment is efficient, effective means of preventing crimes. Here, as in any case of other penalties must be constantly aware of the economy of repression. The deprivation of liberty should be used only when using other punishment is not possible to achieve the desired effect (Bottoms, Rex& Robinson, 2004).



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