Academic journal article Texas International Law Journal

Reducing Reliance on Incarceration in Texas: Does Finland Hold Answers?

Academic journal article Texas International Law Journal

Reducing Reliance on Incarceration in Texas: Does Finland Hold Answers?

Article excerpt

SUMMARY

I. INTRODUCTION .......................................................................................................... 210

II. PROBLEMATICALLY HIGH INCARCERATION RATES IN TEXAS ......................... 211

III. HIGH INCARCERATION RATES IN FINLAND AND POLICY REASONS FOR REVISING THE SENTENCING STRUCTURE ........................................................ 212

IV. BASICS OF FINNISH SENTENCING STRUCTURE ................................................... 215

A. Fines .............................................................................................................. 216

B. imprisonment ............................................................................................... 216

1. Conditional Imprisonment .................................................................. 216

2. Unconditional Imprisonment .............................................................. 217

C. Community Service ..................................................................................... 217

V. FINNISH STRATEGIES: A MODEL FOR TEXAS ...................................................... 218

A. Reducing Penalties for Theft ...................................................................... 218

B. Alternatives to Incarceration for Driving While Intoxicated ................... 220

C. Community Service ..................................................................................... 222

D. Juveniles ....................................................................................................... 222

E. Parole ........................................................................................................... 223

F. Mediation ..................................................................................................... 225

G. Day Fines ..................................................................................................... 226

VI. TEXAS PUNISHMENT STANDARDS COMMISSION ................................................ 226

A. The Role of Discretion in Sentencing Disparity ........................................ 226

B. "Truth in Sentencing" ................................................................................. 227

VII. CONCLUSION - CAN THESE CHANGES BE IMPLEMENTED IN TEXAS? ........... 228

I. INTRODUCTION

In the 1970s, with incarceration rates in Finland four times higher than those of other Nordic countries, Finnish officials, policy makers, and criminologists came together to revise the Finnish Criminal Code and sentencing schemes, with the express goal of reducing their reliance on incarceration. Their efforts have been an unqualified success. From 1977 to 1992 incarceration rates in Finland have decreased by forty percent.

Theories of culpability in Finland do not fit comfortably into the American understanding of punishment, either on the liberal or conservative side. Liberals are startled by the Finnish belief that the criminal justice system should not take on a rehabilitative function. In contrast, Finland's deliberate rejection of general deterrence as a motivation for incarceration is counterintuitive for conservatives. "Humane neoclassicism," a policy ideology that "stressefs] both legal safeguards against coercive care and the goal of less use of repressive measures in general," simply does not fit into the American conceptual framework when it comes to sentencing policy.1 How then, can Finnish sentencing policy be of use in considering reforms to American, and specifically Texan, sentencing policy?

It is difficult to dispute that changes need to be made to Texan sentencing policy. Texas has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, a country with one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. Simultaneously, the recent recession has placed even more strain on the already strained Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), the state's prison agency. …

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