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World & Current Events > What does a prison tem entail

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message 1: by Joe (new)

Joe Clark | 165 comments Sentencing guidelines prescribe a period of time that a person must or should be incarcerated for a given crime with all circumstances taken into account. They say nothing about the prisoner's life during that incarceration. Clearly the prisoner can can be expected to live among strangers in poor conditions and under constant surveillance. But there is clearly a range of situations that all count equally toward completing the specified period of incarceration. There are penitentiaries where the strangers are often violent and dangerous; medium security and low security prisons and camps (almost no security) and halfway houses. In addition there are probation and parole arrangements.
In my current novel, a reporter is trying to interview a character who is out of jail after serving 12 years of a 15 year sentence for rape. The character opens the interview by asking the reporter what she thinks a 15 year sentence means. How would you answer?


message 2: by Krazykiwi (new)

Krazykiwi | 193 comments Wouldn't that answer rather depend on where the novel is set, and where the character is from?

The purpose and practice of prisons differ wildly in different places - your description doesn't fit a Scandinavian prison at all, for instance.


message 3: by Joe (last edited Oct 07, 2017 01:59PM) (new)

Joe Clark | 165 comments Krazykiwi wrote: "Wouldn't that answer rather depend on where the novel is set, and where the character is from?

The purpose and practice of prisons differ wildly in different places - your description doesn't fit..."

I am still researching but I believe that the man would initially have been placed in a state penitentiary in Maryland along with violent offenders; moved down to a medium security prison and then to a half-way house before he was released. Of course, almost every prison sentence is a unique experience.
The novel is set in Washington DC about 5 years after the man is released. He becomes a suspect in some crimes because his rape victim is the target of the criminal activity.
But the question is not about what happened to him in prison. I already have a good start on that. Most people have no idea what a prison sentence entails. He want to know how well versed his interviewer is.


message 4: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5776 comments As you said, every prison sentence is unique. A person is sentenced to a certain amount of time, but that time can be modified by good behavior, family support, and prior convictions, as in OJ's case. His sentence was 9-33 years. He served 9 years and is now on parole.


message 5: by Joe (new)

Joe Clark | 165 comments Scout wrote: "As you said, every prison sentence is unique. A person is sentenced to a certain amount of time, but that time can be modified by good behavior, family support, and prior convictions, as in OJ's ca..." Thanks. That is exactly what I was looking for.


message 6: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5776 comments Glad I could contribute, Joe.


message 7: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 0 comments As you are setting the outline in the USA, don't forget the sentence may also have been influenced by plea bargaining right at the start, even a deal before a court case.

In the UK sentences may also be reduced at sentence point in the trial for pleading guilty at at earlier stage. The time off for good behaviour also stands.


message 8: by Joe (new)

Joe Clark | 165 comments Philip wrote: "As you are setting the outline in the USA, don't forget the sentence may also have been influenced by plea bargaining right at the start, even a deal before a court case.

In the UK sentences may a..."

These issues are important. I am preparing to sit down for an interview with a former public defender who now works for the Innocence Project to get her take on these issues. It is assumed that my character entered a guilty plea that probably limited the time that would be spent as a prisoner. It is further assumed that he got time off for good behavior - he only served 12 years on a fifteen year sentence. He has been out for 4 or 5 years and established himself in the community. Now he has agreed to meet with a reporter to discuss his time in prison and his efforts to re-integrated into the community.
He begins the interview by asking the reporter what she thinks his prison term was like. What does she answer?


message 9: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 0 comments She may have spent time in prison her self or at least been arrested. She may have worked in a prison or another part of the justice system. Perhaps she has a member of her own family who has served a sentence? In these case she would have a good understanding of the system, but no one knows truly what it is like for another person. She may have no idea, but as a reporter I would have expected her to have researched the subject.

Some inmates do not want to leave prison after a long sentence, they are scared of the changes in the outside world. Some have claimed to be, or sometimes are, innocent of the crime of which they were convicted.

Lots of scope for variation in plot


message 10: by Lizzie (new)

Lizzie | 1753 comments There are sentencing guidelines and there are mandatory sentences. The drug crimes fall under mandatory minimums. But, a plea agreement can result in a lesser charger allowing for a lesser sentence. There is also the issue of how much time you have to serve. Some crimes are straight time. Some states require 65% and some 85% of the term be served through incarceration before they are released on parole.

My response would be to ask questions because I wouldn't know what it means in his state and conviction. A defendant broke into a pharmacy and stole drugs, threatening the pharmacist and got 10 years. That could be a conviction for breaking and entering, various levels of burglary and theft, possession of drugs, assault, aggravated assault, etc.

If he asked me the question, my answer would be, I don't have a clue what 15 years for rape is, I would presume it was served on a sex offender yard which would be safer than a general population yard for any sex offender.


message 11: by Joe (last edited Oct 12, 2017 08:54AM) (new)

Joe Clark | 165 comments Lizzie wrote: "There are sentencing guidelines and there are mandatory sentences. The drug crimes fall under mandatory minimums. But, a plea agreement can result in a lesser charger allowing for a lesser sentence..."
I hadn't thought of it that way but that is a great answer. Thanks for your thoughts.


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