Federal justice systems use intermediate sanctions as a method of punishment for certain criminal offenders. Alternatively, the term is also used by the IRS when applying penalties to tax-exempt organizations which engage in acts that profit disqualified members of the group.
Did You Know?
Internal sanctions can vary between mild probation to intense levels of supervision and community based disciplinary actions, to be decided by the presiding judge. Under these punishments, the offenders have to complete community service, undergo random drug testing, be under electronic monitoring, and report to community correction centers for programming, depending on the severity of the crime.
Federal and state governments have created and implemented various methods to reduce overcrowding and operational costs of correctional facilities, to manage high-risk offenders in a better way and reduce crime by fair sentencing of adults. Intermediate sanctions are one of the more popular methods of doing so.
Intermediate Sanctions in Corrections and Criminal Justice
Designed primarily to pick up the slack of probation departments and correctional facilities, intermediate sanctions can be defined as criminal sentences that fall between regular probation and incarceration. The sentences can include house arrest, boot camps, intense supervision, besides other means. The primary objective is to reduce the overcrowding of the prison system of the nation. It also helps in preventing the offender from repeating the crime by targeting the behavior of the person which led to the crime. If the punishment does not include either special probation, residential programs, electronic house arrest, intensive supervision, drug treatment, or reporting to correctional centers, it is not called intermediate sanction, but is designated as a community punishment.
In most cases, intermediate sanctions are given when the offender is involved in serious property damage, violence, or chronic delinquency. These programs structure themselves within regular or intensive probation, or supervised interventions for violent or chronic offenders. The punishment will involve constructive activities such as cognitive behavioral therapy, parenting sessions, family counseling, training in interpersonal skills, mentoring programs, and drug and alcohol therapies.
Examples of Intermediate Sanctions
- A first-time drug offender could be give an intermediate sanction to attend drug treatment sessions, rather than being imprisoned, which makes it less likely for the offender to commit a drug related crime in the future.
- Offenders who have commuted a crime of violence might be sentenced to house arrest along with electronic surveillance.
- Chronic offenders might be required to make daily reports to their probation officers.
The offender is always aware that the probation officer can recommend a revocation of the sentence, so this arrangement is most effective when mutual respect is involved. This kind of disciplinary action provides a level of security to the ordinary citizens of the community as well.
4 Types of Intermediate Sanctions
- Intensive Supervision Probation
This kind of intermediate sanction is usually given to offenders who ideally should not be allowed to remain in the community, but might have a good chance at rehabilitation, or to reduce the costs of the prison system. Probation officers who handle such cases are normally aggressive in surveillance and harsh in making sanctions. Due to the high chances of the offender repeating the crime, probation officers are expected to coerce the criminal into pro social activities, besides a number of educational and therapy programs.
- Work Release Program
These programs are created to place offenders in a safe environment, while still allowing them to be employed. Such ‘Work Release’ centers are normally situated near county jails. Offenders in these programs are allowed into these centers only when they are expected to work, and are secured in the correctional facilities after the working hours. These programs allow the offender to maintain relations with their employers and family, and since they pay for their accommodation through their earnings, the state saves money on such cases too.
- Shock Probation/Boot Camps
In shock probation, offenders are sent to jail for short periods of time, such as a month or two, and then released on probation. The theory behind this is that, criminals will be less likely to repeat their offense after witnessing the horrors of prison first-hand. Alternatively, one may also be sentenced to enroll in correctional boot camps, where the offender undergoes strict military style physical and educational programs. However, this kind of intermediate sanction is not very popular, as it is often considered to be tougher than a prison sentence, and is considered to be ineffective when preventing a criminal from re-offending.
- Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program
These programs were created as a restorative justice system to bring the offender and victim together to right the wrongs that have been done. It is designed to use the community, the victim, and the offender as a solution to restore the situation. This system works best when both, the victim and the offender are interested in fairness and justice, rather than punishment and revenge. It involves face-to face meetings which are mediated by officers to make the offenders understand the gravity of their crime, and for them to see how the offender can make amends for the damage that he/she has caused. However, in cases where the victim feels that the offense cannot be put right easily, and that the offender deserves to be punished, this system cannot be put to use.
Pros and Cons of Intermediate Sanctions
- Intermediate sanctions can turn criminals who are genuinely interested in positive change from threats of health and safety to the community into productive citizens of society.
- If judges use this method of punishment for non-violent offenders, there is less risk of them harming others in the community, while ensuring that a repeat offense or violation of the probation conditions results in a very severe jail term, which serves as a major deterrent.
- Prisons have been shown to be very costly and ineffective in reducing crime rates by significant margins. Intermediate sanctions provide an alternative, which might work better and reduce the costs and stress on the prison system.
- Offenders can create income, can pay taxes, perform community service, and reimburse their victims, which is not possible while being jailed.
- It allows the judge to prescribe suitable punishments according to the severity of the crime, without using incarceration.
- It is also a good way to bring in those people who break the conditions of ordinary parole, but for whom imprisonment can be counterproductive.
- It is difficult for the judge to decide whether the offender genuinely wants to change, or if he/she is just looking for a way to stay out of jail.
- It is important that various types of programs, such as house arrest, boot camps, etc., are effectively handled by competent staff, which cannot be always guaranteed.
- Also, with the dynamics of human nature, it is not always possible for the lawyers and judge to put the offender in the perfect sanction.
- Putting a high-risk offender in such a sanction can result in disaster, by putting the general society at risk of a repeat offense.
Intermediate Sanctions in Taxation
Internal sanctions are used by the United States IRS towards tax-exempt organizations which engage in deals and transactions that add to the benefits of a disqualified person. These sanctions bring penalties on both, the organization as well as the person, by fines, revocation of tax-exempt status, or both. These sanctions come under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights 2, which adds intermediate sanctions to private persons who benefit from the dealings of non-profit organizations, and also the managers of the organizations who approve such benefits.
Disqualified entities are people or organizations who, during 5 years after September 1995, and till the date of the questionable transaction, were able to substantially influence the working of the non-profit organization. The rules of this sanction even include the family members of the people in control of the organization. It even includes any organization that is indirectly or directly owned by a disqualified person. Executive members of the board, officers of the organization, or sponsors who have a financial interest in the tax exempt status of the organization are also counted as disqualified members.
If accused of such tax fraud, it is the responsibility of the mangers and disqualified person to prove that the compensation was approved by the authorized body of the organization, which was composed entirely of people without any conflict of interest, after making a thorough study to make sure that the transaction was clear, with correct and adequate documentation to prove that the compensation was reasonable. If this is proved, it is then up to the IRS to show that the compensation was unreasonable and not at fair value through contradicting evidence.
On finding that the disqualified person has gained excess profits, the person has to reimburse all the extra benefits to the organization, and can attract fines of up to 200%. The managers can be fined an average of USD 10,000 for each of their violations. In case the manager is the person who benefited from the transactions of the non-profit organization, he/she will be penalized under both parameters.
Thus, we can see that intermediate sanctions are an important process in the working of both, the Revenue and Justice departments of the United States of America.