equity | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Corrections

In the sentencing context, equity refers to the principle that similar crimes should be punished similarly and that individual circumstances should be considered when determining a sentence.


This principle is used to ensure that sentences are fair and proportional and that they take into account the unique circumstances of each case.

Equity in sentencing considers individual circumstances, such as the offender’s background, their role in the crime, and the impact of the crime on the victim. This allows for sentences tailored to each case’s specific circumstances rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all approach.

For example, a judge might consider an offender’s history of mental illness when determining a sentence for a crime. If an offender has a history of mental illness and the crime was committed due to their illness, the judge may choose to impose a sentence that includes mental health treatment and incarceration.

Equity also ensures that sentences are fair and proportional compared to similar crimes. In this case, it’s about ensuring that the same crime does not result in vastly different sentences based on the offender’s background, the jurisdiction, or the judge’s discretion.

Equity in the sentencing context should be distinguished from the principle of equality, which means treating the same cases in the same way without taking into account individual circumstances.

It’s important to note that the concept of equity in sentencing is not always easy to implement in practice. Sentencing guidelines, which are used to ensure that similar crimes are punished similarly, can provide some guidance. Still, ultimately, the decision on what sentence to impose is left to the judge or jury’s discretion.


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Last Modified: 01/09/2023

 

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