What should be our sentencing policy?
Law, Human rights, judicial proceedings are the basic need for every civilised society. But unfortunately, we are the worst sufferers of injustice and corruption in our society. It is the high time to think about the reason behind this never ending practice of corruption in our justice delivery system. One of the attributable reasons behind this practice is inadequate sentencing policy. Carrying the legacy of colonial penal system, we could not impose a strict and retributive sentencing policy yet. Still we are following the British rules set out in the Penal Code 1860, Code of Criminal Procedure 1898 and so on. Even today, when the criminals are more educated than the past, when the crime pattern has changed, when our population and poverty have become the main headache of present decade, we are dealing with the ancient rules of sentencing. So, we should put our concern on this issue right now.
In USA, there are three types of sentencing policies: determinate sentencing, judgment of different judges and indeterminate sentencing. Determinate sentencing has three more sub types: such as, flat time sentencing, presumptive sentencing and mandatory sentencing. Flat time sentencing is quite strict one because offenders cannot enjoy parole and good time during their imprisonment but judges can choose between parole and imprisonment before imposing sentence for any offence. Mandatory sentencing means a sentencing system that has a fixed period of imprisonment. And lastly, presumptive sentencing is where judges can exercise their power by imposing several types of sentencing systems which should be appropriate for the offender. For example, in 1994 in Texas, a drunk taxi driver was arrested in a case of road accident where an old man was injured. In the hearing of his case, US Federal court imposed a different type of punishment which is to live in an old age home and take care of the old people for 4 months.
In Bangladesh, our judiciary, legislature and administrators deal with the poor and uneducated people. They do not understand the language of law. They only understand the result of imposing sentence. They want to see that the offenders suffer from harsh treatments. Our present situation is also asking us to follow a strict rule but as our court system has so many bureaucratic problems we cannot follow “Zero Tolerance” policy but we can follow a definite system of punishment. Here, in Bangladesh, the main criminals are the part of power structure of the state. In this circumstances, at first we need to classify the offender into three categories: serious offender, less serious offender and situational offender. Then we need some categorised punishment policies as an amendment of section 53 of Penal Code 1860. For example, acid throwing punishment to an acid thrower. We can consider it as deterrent effect of punishment such as an eye for an eye. Some punishments could be as follows:
1. Cleaning the city (for less serious offender)
2. Hard labor and give the income to a poor person (for situational offender)
3. Deterrent punishments
4. Donate a fixed amount of money to the poor (this is for the black money owner)
5. Imposing high amount of fine which is very difficult to pay back
6. Working as a house maid (this is for the physical abusers) etc.
With the old punishment types, we also need the above types to create “fear of punishment” as well as” hate of punishment” into the offenders mind. If we truly want to establish fair justice in our country, it would not be very tough for us to revisit our sentencing policy in consonance with the change of the society.
Student of Criminology and Police Science (CPS)
Mawlana Bhashani Science and Technology University (MBSTU).