1. What do we mean by the term ‘alternatives to punishment’?
The answer requires an understanding that there are a range of strategies and approaches to crime that are not based on the ‘traditional’ approach of determining guilt and then punishing offenders. Your answer might identify that alternatives to punishment move away from a focus on the behaviour of the offender and instead consider the detail of the offence, its impacts and consequences. You might also explore how alternatives are concerned with resolving the impacts of the crime, including compensating victims.
2. What are the distinctive features of offence-resolution strategies?
You might consider:
- The concept of ‘taking responsibility’, as opposed to being ‘held responsible’
- The timeframes with which offense-resolution strategies are concerned
- Offense-resolution strategies as situated in a problem-solving approach that represents a form of tailored and individualised response
- The involvement of victims in determining agreed objectives
- The commitment to healing, redemption, normalisation and reintegration
3. Why do you think these approaches have gained more ground when working with young offenders rather than adults?
In addressing this question, you might explore the extent to which these approaches are more diversionary than punishment-based. As a consequence, they might be more effective early in a criminal ‘career’. Your answer might also explore the risk of ‘contamination’ by the criminal justice system and how this might particularly impact on young offenders.
4. What are the advantages and disadvantages of informal attempts to deal with offences?
Advantages might include, amongst others, reduced cost and benefits for victims who can have a voice in the resolution. Disadvantages might relate to disagreements about how alternatives should work and what their purpose is. You might also explore the reality that some alternatives still need to work alongside the justice system.
5. What do you think of the suggestion that employing ‘alternative’ means of dealing with offences is just letting criminals off lightly?
The claim that alternatives and diversionary measures mean that criminals are ‘getting away with it’ lies at the heart of this question. Your answer needs to consider how the apparent leniency afforded to offenders by alternatives might be seen as unfair to victims and lacking in real punishment. Your answer might challenge this perception by, for example, exploring how restorative justice can require offenders to confront the real harm that they have caused to victims. You might also consider the overall benefits of alternatives and examine some of the arguments that they can be more effective than traditional punishment and reduce reoffending rates. This being the case, the wider benefits are an important factor to consider.