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# The latest prominent principle of criminal sentencing is that of

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GMAT 1: 700 Q49 V37
The latest prominent principle of criminal sentencing is that of  [#permalink]

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Updated on: 15 Oct 2019, 03:59
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The latest prominent principle of criminal sentencing is that of "selective incapacitation." Selective incapacitation, like general incapacitation, involves sentencing with the goal of protecting the community from the crimes that an offender would commit if he were on the street. It differs from general incapacitation in its attempt to replace bluntness with selectivity.

Under a strategy of selective incapacitation, probation and short terms of incarceration are given to convicted offenders who are identified as being less likely to commit frequent and serious crimes, and longer terms of incarceration are given to those identified as more crime prone. Selective incapacitation has the potential for bringing about a reduction in crime without an increase in prison populations. This reduction could be substantial.

Reserving prison and jail space for the most criminally active offenders in some instances conflicts not only with other norms of legal justice, but with norms of social justice as well. If we reserve the sanction of incarceration only for the dangerous repeat offender, excluding the white collar offender and certain other criminals who pose no serious threat of physical injury to others, we may end up permitting harmful people from the middle class to evade a sanction that less privileged offenders cannot.

One of the most pervasive criticisms of selective incapacitation is that it is based on the statistical prediction of dangerousness; because such predictions are often erroneous, according to this point of view, they should not be used by the court. This criticism is related to both the nature of the errors and to the use of certain information for predicting a defendant‘s dangerousness. Let‘s first consider the nature of errors in prediction.

Prediction usually results in some successes and in two kinds of errors: "false positives" and "false negatives." The problem of false positives in sentencing is costly primarily to incarcerated defendants who are not really so dangerous, while false negative predictions impose costs primarily on the victims of subsequent crimes committed by released defendants. In predicting whether a defendant will recidivate, the problem of false positives is widely regarded as especially serious, for
many of the same reasons that it has been regarded in our society as better to release nine offenders than to convict one innocent person.

A tempting alternative is to reject prediction altogether; obviously, if we do not predict, then no errors of prediction are possible. A flaw in this logic is that, whether we like it or not—indeed, even if we tried to forbid it—criminal justice decisions are now, and surely always will be, based on predictions, and imperfect ones, at that. Attempts to discourage prediction in sentencing may in fact produce the worst of both worlds: the deceit of predictive sentencing disguised as something more tasteful, and inferior prediction as well. If we are to reserve at least some prison and jail space for the most criminally active offenders, then the prediction of criminal activity is an inescapable task. Is selective incapacitation truly an effective and appropriate proposal, an "idea whose time has come," or is it a proposal that carries with it a potential for injustice?

1. Suppose the number of dangerous criminals that would be imprisoned under selective incapacitation but otherwise set free is greater than the number of harmless criminals who would be set free under selective incapacitation but otherwise imprisoned. How would this information be relevant to the passage?

A. It weakens the claim that the goal of selective incapacitation is to protect the community.

B. It strengthens the claim that there are more violent than non-violent criminals.

C. It weakens the claim that selective incapacitation would not increase prison populations.

D. It strengthens the claim that white-collar criminals unfairly receive shorter sentences.

E. It is of no relevance to the passage

2. The author‘s statement that selective incapacitation may "end up permitting harmful people from the middle class to evade a sanction that less privileged offenders cannot" assumes that:

A. there are more offenders in the lower-class than in the middle-class.

B. the dangerous repeat offenders are lower-class and not middle-class.

C. harmful middle-class people can use their money to avoid prison.

D. lower-class offenders do not deserve to suffer incarceration.

E. the rich do not ever commit crimes

3. Based on the passage, which of the following would most likely be cited by an opponent of statistical prediction as the reason that prediction should be abandoned?

A. The possibility of letting a dangerous criminal loose is too great.

B. The possibility of imprisoning a man who should be allowed to go free is too great.

C. The court makes more accurate decisions when statistics is employed.

D. Dangerousness has yet to be adequately defined as a legal concept.

E. Statistics is an inexact science

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Originally posted by LordStark on 05 Sep 2018, 18:33.
Last edited by SajjadAhmad on 15 Oct 2019, 03:59, edited 1 time in total.
Updated - Complete topic (991).
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Re: The latest prominent principle of criminal sentencing is that of  [#permalink]

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28 Sep 2018, 21:08

+1 kudos to the posts containing answer explanations of all questions

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Re: The latest prominent principle of criminal sentencing is that of  [#permalink]

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28 Sep 2018, 21:45
Hi workout,

Can you please help me understand Q1

Suppose the number of dangerous criminals that would be imprisoned under selective incapacitation but otherwise set free is greater than the number of harmless criminals who would be set free under selective incapacitation but otherwise imprisoned..

Rephrasing Question from my understanding - The dangerous criminals who should be imprisoned are set free and the harmless criminals who should be free are imprisoned.

So in this way :
A. It weakens the claim that the goal of selective incapacitation is to protect the community. - This should be correct.
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Re: The latest prominent principle of criminal sentencing is that of  [#permalink]

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25 Oct 2018, 01:37

Topic and Scope

- The author discusses the benefits and drawbacks of tying the
length of prison terms to a prediction of an offender‘s likelihood to commit crimes in
the future.

Mapping the Passage:

¶s 1 and 2 describe the concept of selective incapacitation and its potential
advantages.
¶3 describes a potential injustice of selective incapacitation: more lenient sentences
for the better-off.
¶s4 and 5 discuss another potential drawback: errors in statistical prediction that lead
to unjust or dangerous sentencing.
¶6 discusses the possibility of rejecting prediction altogether but argues that some
form of prediction is necessary
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Re: The latest prominent principle of criminal sentencing is that of  [#permalink]

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25 Oct 2018, 01:39
1

Answers and Explanations OE

1)

An incorporation question with some difficult initial information to sift through. A quick vertical scan of the answer choices shows that you need to determine whether the information strengthens or weakens various arguments that the author makes. Since the claims in the choices are diverse, try to predict what would happen based on the information alone. If the information in the question is true, then more criminals will be going into prison than coming out. Looking for an answer choice that touches on this turns up (C). Of course, if the prison population is increasing, the claim that selective incapacitation would not increase the prison population is weakened.
(A): Opposite. If more dangerous criminals are being imprisoned, this claim would be strengthened.
(B): Out of Scope. This claim is never made, and the relative numbers of the imprisoned would have no effect on it even if it were.
(C): The correct answer
(D): Opposite. This opinion would be strengthened by the evidence that more dangerous criminals are justly receiving longer sentences.
(E): Incorrect, as described above

2)

Review the given lines in context. If the less privileged offenders are punished more severely, then they must be predicted to be more dangerous. (B) repeats this. Use the denial test to verify: If the dangerous repeat offenders were middle class instead of lower class, then the harmful people in the middle class would be imprisoned more often, which runs contrary to the author‘s point.
(A): Distortion. While there may be more dangerous offenders, this doesn‘t mean that there are more offenders overall.(B): The correct answer
(C): Distortion. Though those in the middle class by definition have more money, there‘s no indication that they‘re using it to escape prison terms.
(D): Distortion. Though there may be class inequity in sentencing, this doesn‘t mean that all lower class offenders are undeserving of prison terms.
(E): Extreme language. The author never assumes this.

3)

Review the arguments that opponents of statistical prediction make. The main argument is that statistical prediction is unfair to the innocent. Only (B) matches this point.
(A): Opposite. As mentioned in ¶5, an opponent of prediction would be more in favour of letting a criminal go free than imprisoning an innocent person.
(B): The correct answer
(C): Out of Scope. The passage doesn‘t deal with this at all.
(D): Out of Scope. The passage doesn‘t deal with this at all.
(E): Out of Scope. The passage doesn‘t deal with this at all.
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Re: The latest prominent principle of criminal sentencing is that of   [#permalink] 25 Oct 2018, 01:39
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