Penal Reform Act - A Guide for Young Offenders


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Penal Reform Act - A Guide for Young Offenders

  1. 1. PENAL SYSTEM REFORM ALTERNATIVE SENTENCES ACT 2001The Penal Reform Alternative Sentences Act is a law that was passed withyoung offenders in mind. Before the passage of this law, those workingwith young people who committed crimes felt that the Courts were limitedin what they could legally and appropriately do to help young offenders tobe responsible for the mistake they had made and get there lives back ontrack. In many cases the only thing that the Court could do was to send ayoung offender to jail.The Penal Reform Alternative Sentences Act was passed to give the Courtsthe authority to find more positive ways to deal with a young offender,other than sending him/her to jail. It also establishes a government de-partment, the Community Rehabilitation Department, to assist the Courtin its work and to help young people in many other ways.Although the Act or law can also be used with adults whocommit non-violent crimes, its focus is young people un-der the age of eighteen years who have committedcrimes or offensces.What is this Act about? It is about: • The different penalties (punishment), which a criminal Court can sentence you to, if you are found guilty of certain offences. • The information the Court considers in deciding what penalty it should sentence you with. • How these penalties are to be carried out once the Court passes its sentence. 1
  2. 2. Offences that apply to this ActAn offence is something that is done that is against the law. The offencesthat apply to this act are: 1. Theft by a first offender of less than $500 2. Provocation to fight 3. A first offence involving smoking or using cocaine or marijuana 4. Failure to pay maintenance 5. Any first offence in Part II of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act. These include disorderly conduct, drunkenness, and trespassing. P OWERS O F T HE C RIMINAL C OURTQ : What penalties can I be sentenced to?A penalty is a punishment for a crime or offence. The Court will review yourcase and can order ANY of the following penalties:1 . Absolute DischargeIn this case, the Court does not order any penalty for the offence. You arefree to go, as if you were never convicted. This does not appear on yourcriminal record. Remember: The Court does not have to order an abso- lute discharge, but does so if it believes such action is best considering all of the circumstances. 2. Conditional Discharge No penalty is ordered for the offence com- mitted. This will not appear on your criminal record. BUT if another offence is commit- ted within three years or less, THEN the Court can sentence you for both offences, 2
  3. 3. that is, the first offence for which you were given conditional discharge andthe new offence.3 . Suspended Prison SentenceThe Court orders a term of imprisonment for the offence committed, BUTorders that you do not actually have to go to prison at that time. HOWEVER HOWEVER,if another offence is committed, one for which you could be sent to prisonfor six months or more, THEN the Court may order you to go to prison, THEN,either for the full term of the suspended sentence or for lesser time. Asuspended sentence DOES appear on your criminal record.4 . Community Service OrderInstead of going to prison, the Court may order you to do some kind of workor service to help the community. The Court will decide how long you haveto do this work. A community service order can be made IN ADDITION toany other sentence given by the Court. KNOW that you, the young offender, KNOWMUST agree to a community service order before the Court can order it.MUST5 . FinesHere, you are ordered to pay a sum of money to the Court, instead of goingto prison.6 . Imprisonment (Custodial Sentence)Sending you to prison is the last thing that the Court wantsto do. Therefore, if the Court does send you to jail, it is be-cause the Court feels that it is the best penalty, consider-ing the circumstances of your case. 3
  4. 4. H OW T HE C OURT M AKES I TS D ECISIONThe main consideration of the Court, when deciding what sentence to giveyou, the young offender, is that “the seriousness of the punishment must the mustmatch offence.”match the seriousness of the of fenceThe aim of sentencing is to rehabilitate you, the young offender. Rehabili-tation means you are assisted in changing your behavior so that you arebetter able to participate in society.When the Court is in the process of deciding what sentence to impose on you it must consider the following: • Any information that the Court has on you, the offender, such as your background, obligations, record of past convic- tions, etc. • Information regarding the offence committed, as well as the way in which the offence was committed • Information about the victim, if relevant • Description of the work it is proposed you do, if you are given a community service order • In cases where the Court is considering a community service order or a custodial sentence, the Court MUST obtain a Pre-Sen- tencing report from the Community Reha- bilitation Department, so that it can have the necessary information with which to form an opinion about your sentence. 4
  5. 5. COMMUNITY REHABILITATION DEPARTMENTThe Community Rehabilitation Department directly assists the Court incarrying out the task of sentencing persons convicted of criminal offencesunder the Penal Reform Alternative Sentencing Act 2001. The officers ofthis Department are called Community Rehabilitation Officers.The following are some of the roles of the Department which may directlyaffect you: • Prepare pre and post-sentencing reports about you, for the Court • Supervise you when you are sentenced to a community service order • Supervise you when you are put on probation • Offers counseling to you if the Court orders you to undergo counseling • Offer counseling to your parents, if you are under 18 years of age, and the Court orders your parents undergo counseling • Report to the Court if you do not obey the terms and conditions of the com- munity service order. • Explain the terms and conditions of your sentence to you so that you will have a clear understanding of your sentence. 5
  6. 6. F REQUENTLY A SKED Q UESTIONS Absolute and Conditional DischargeQ : What does the Court do before it sentences you to a discharge?A: Before ordering a discharge, the Court must first review the facts of yourcase.The Court may ask for a PRE-SENTENCING REPORT, prepared by a Com- REPORTmunity Rehabilitation Officer. The report usually includes: • Information about the offence committed and how it was committed • Your character and your plans to change the behavior which brought you before the Court • Results of the interview with you and your parents, if you are under 18 years of age • Interview with any victims of the offence you have committed • And any other relevant information regard- ing the circumstances of your case After the Court has reviewed ALL the infor- mation presented and it believes that it would make no practical sense to send you to prison, THEN a discharge can be ordered. THEN, you Q: What happens if you commit off another offence while on conditional discharge? discharge? A: The Court can sentence you for both offences, namely, the offence for which you are on conditional 6
  7. 7. discharge, AND the new offence you committed. YOU WILL HAVE TO SERVE HAVE TO SERVEBOTH SENTENCES.BOTH Sentence Suspended Sentence CourtQ: What does the Court do when ordering a suspended sentence? sentence?A: The Court must first consider ALL the circumstances of your case. ASuspended Sentence is ordered when the Court believes that if it did nothave the power to order a suspended sentence, it would have to send youto prison.When a Suspended Sentence is ordered, the Court explains that IF youcommit another offence, for which you could be sent to prison for six monthsor more, THEN you may be ordered to serve EITHER the full term of thesuspended sentence, OR a lesser time. you given sentence forQ: What happens if you are given a suspended sentence for off term for off one offence AND a prison term for another offence, at the same time?A: The Court will order you to serve both sentences at the same time. Fines Court tak into ake beforeQ: What does the Court take into account before itmakes you paymakes you pay a fine?A: The Court may take yourfinancial means intoaccount, so faras they areknown to theCourt AND anyother informa-tion which itmight findhelpful. 7
  8. 8. Custodial SentenceQ : What kind of information can the Court take into consideration?A: The Court can use all available information about the circumstances ofthe offence, including aggravating and mitigating factors.Aggravating factors are things which make the offence committed worse, ggrav factors actorsuch as excessive violence, actions caused by racism or the use of aweapon.Mitigating factors are things which serve to partly explain or excuse the factors actorcommission of the offence, such as an urgent need for self defense, theurgent need to defend another person and non-violence.The Court can also consider the Pre-Sentencing Report prepared by the Community Rehabilitation Officer. This report usually in- cludes information on you and your plans to change the behavior which brought you before the Court in the first place, the results of interviews with you and/or your parents (if you are less than 18 years), and inter- views with the victim(s) of the crime, and any other relevant information. Service Community Service Order may Court make Q: When may the Court make a service community service order? A: • The Court can make a community service order once you have been con- victed of an offence which qualifies for such an order. (See list of offences in the first part of this guide). • The Court must ask you whether or not you agree to the order 8
  9. 9. • The Court will also consider the Pre-Sentencing Report which should include information about you, and description of the work it is pro- posed that you do. • The Court must also be convinced that you are a suitable person to perform the work under the community service order, and that arrange- ments have been made for you to do the work and be supervised. factors actor Court tak into akeQ: What other factors can the Court take into account when service making a community service order?A: The Court will consider your religious beliefs; the times you normallywork or attend an educational institution. The Court will also ensure thatyou are required to work within your district, preferably within your com-munity.Q: What must the Court explain before making a community must Court explain before service service order?A: • The Court must explain, in clear language, what happens if you com- mit another offence while serving a community service order. • What happens if you do not obey any of the conditions, requirements or responsibilities under this order • The Court also has the power to review the order upon applica- tion by yourself or the Community Rehabilitation Department. How service lastQ: How long will a community service order last andhow many hourshow many hours aday youday can you be to wor ork?ordered to work?A: A community ser-vice order will last:• For not morethan 12 months 9
  10. 10. • Until you have performed the work required under the order and have completed the number of hours required. • If the order is extended, it will last until the extension expires • You are not to work for more than eight hours per day, on Saturday or Sunday or on public and bank holidays. you off servingQ: What happens if you commit another offence while serving service a community service order?A: The Court dealing with the new offence will sentence you for that of-fence and MAY sentence you for the first offence as well. This means thatthe community service order, which you are serving, can be changed intoa more serious sentence.Q: What happens if you do not obey any of theQ:What you obey any requirements, conditions or responsibilities under the order? A: You will be summoned to appear in Court. If the Court finds that you have no reasonable ex- cuse for not obeying, the Court may: • Impose a fine of up to $2000 and order you to continue the work under the community service order; • Cancel the community service order and give you another sentence. must you Q: What must you do under community service order? service A: • Adequately perform the work stated in the order and for the number of hours specified; 10
  11. 11. • Obey any requirements or conditions stated in the order • Obey any reasonable requests or instruction of the Community Rehabili- tation Officer supervising you • Immediately notify the Community Rehabilitation Officer supervising you of any change of address.Q : What kind of work can a community service entail?A: The type of work you would be asked to do includes working at hospitals,charitable organizations (like the Red Cross), cultural institutions (like NICH),or any institution or organization for the elderly, sick or persons withdisabilities. You may also be asked to work on land for whichthe government is responsible.Q : Can your community service order be ext xtended, cancelled, extended, or the type of ork changed? work changed?A: Yes, all of the above, under the following circum-stances: • If your circumstances change and the work or hours are no longer suitable • No more suitable work can be found • If you become unable to perform the work ordered, for example: through illness • Upon application to the Court by your- self, or by the Community Rehabilitation OfficerThe Court makes the final decision as towhich changes will be made to the order. 11
  12. 12. T HE W AY F ORWARDComing in conflict with the law can be very challenging. It is hoped that thisbooklet has given you enough information so you will know what to expectwhen dealing with the Court. As you are now aware, the Community Reha-bilitation Department is there to support and guide you along the way.Keep in mind that other young people, like you, have come in conflict withthe law. But with the help of the Community Rehabilitation Department,they have served their sentences and are now working toward a positivefuture for themselves.Take for example a young man by the name of Eddy Sanchez. After servinghis sentence, he decided to turn his life around. Eddy, now 16 years old, is in high school and is proud of his good grades. He a member of the marine cadet corps and also vol- unteers his time by helping to clean up his community. Eddie’s advice to other young offenders is to stay strong and be positive. He advises youths to stay in school so that they can get a good job later on in life. The Community Rehabilitation De- partment is very proud of Eddy, and if he can do it, so can you! 12