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Graduated Sanctions: Stepping Into Accountable Systems and Offenders

NCJ Number
Prison Journal Volume: 79 Issue: 2 Dated: June 1999 Pages: 182-204
Date Published
23 pages

This article presents a procedural justice theory for graduated sanctions in probation and the critical components for this model.


Graduated sanctions are structured, incremental responses to non-compliant behavior of probationers while they are under supervision. They are designed to give the probation officer the ability to respond quickly to noncompliant acts through a series of actions such as 1 day in jail, more drug testing, more reporting, or a curfew. The sanctioning process uses modest steps to restrict the offender's liberty so as to deter future noncompliant acts and ensure the integrity of the court order. The specific sanction depends on factors such as the nature of the violation and whether it was the first violation. Critics of the graduated sanctions question whether probation agents have the authority to respond to noncompliant behavior without court involvement. The statutory authority of probation agents to sanction has been challenged on the grounds of due process, separation of powers, and double jeopardy. A review of these issues shows how a graduated sanction process protects the individual civil rights of the probationer while also providing a fair and just process for addressing common infraction behaviors. This article discusses the implications for increasing compliance with release conditions in terms of the differential methods for implementing graduated sanctions. 2 tables, 8 notes, 42 references, and appended sanction form for Baltimore City, Md.

Date Published: January 1, 1999