What Are Intermediate Sanctions? The Criminal Justice System in the United States

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The criminal justice system in the United States.Intermediate sanctions are limitations placed on offenders who are at large in the community.

Intermediate sanctions in corrections are imposed by the United States criminal justice system. Intermediate sanctions are alternate punishments and used to monitor offenders who are neither under the usual restrictions of probation, or incarcerated. These sanctions are also a form of punishment, however, the risk and reward can be questionable depending on the crime a person has committed.

Intermediate sanctions can be ordered by the court, or they can be administered by a probation agency (Gaines & Miller, 2006, p.298). Most states in the U.S. have intermediate sanctions, although they may differ from state to state.

The purpose of intermediate sanctions is to restrict the activities of a probationer and to make them more accountable for their actions. This method of deterrent is necessary because the offenders are free to live in their communities. Precautions are necessary to maintain public safety, while at the same time, fostering good behavior in the offender so further offenses are not committed.

Although many probationers have not committed violent crimes, more and more individuals are kept out of prisons and jails due to overcrowding. Intermediate sanctions are a means of punishment as well as rehabilitation, and the long term prospects should therefore be more satisfying than for someone who has not had direct, one-on-one supervision. With caseloads being so heavy, these sanctions can help restrict the movement of the offender, and provide a more successful means of supervision for their overworked probation officers.

Intermediate sanctions can vary according to the crime committed. Some people may find themselves confined to their homes while being monitored electronically to ensure they stay there, while others may need to report daily to their probation officer to confirm their whereabouts and are possibly kept under some type of surveillance.

The system of punishment on the outside of a prison can only be effective if both parties follow the rules. Oftentimes a probationer has little or no contact with his or her probation officer, but appropriate sanctions address this problem by maintaining constant contact between the offender and the officer. At any time, the probationer is aware that the officer can recommend a revocation, so mutual respect is best if the sentence is to be carried out in a mutually satisfying manner. Intermediate sanctions also provide another level of security that citizens of a community are entitled to, and which they should expect.

Problems with Intermediate Sanctions

As mentioned above, these intermediate sanctions are used because of over crowding in the jail systems and basically using a monitoring device. Many people that have monitoring bracelets have them because of domestic violence and DUI violations. The problem is that more and more, these people are cutting off the ankle bracelets and going out and committing more crimes. It is certainly not a fool proof system. Once the criminal cuts off the ankle monitoring bracelet, law enforcement is immediately notified. But therein lies the problem, they are out on the loose doing whatever they want to do. It is a problem.


Gaines, L. & Miller, R. L. (2006). Criminal justice in action: The core (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth. ISBN: 0-495-00305-4.