intermediate sanctions | Definition

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

In criminal justice, intermediate sanctions are penalties that fall between standard probation and jail time.

Imagine a staircase. At the bottom, you have probation, a punishment that allows a person to stay in their community under supervision. At the top, you have imprisonment, where a person is confined to jail or prison. But what about the steps in between? That’s where intermediate sanctions come in.

Different Types of Intermediate Sanctions

Intermediate sanctions can take many forms. Let’s discuss some common types.

Intensive Supervision Probation

Intensive supervision probation, or ISP, is like probation but with stricter rules. Offenders must meet more often with probation officers and follow stricter guidelines.

Electronic Monitoring

Electronic monitoring is a bit like being under house arrest. Offenders wear an electronic device, often an ankle bracelet, that tracks their movements. This way, officials can make sure they’re sticking to the rules.

Community Service

Community service requires offenders to give back to their communities. They might clean parks, help at food banks, or contribute in other ways.


Restitution is about making things right. If an offender stole something, they’d have to pay back the value of the stolen goods.

Drug or Alcohol Treatment Programs

Sometimes, crime is linked to substance abuse. In these cases, offenders might have to attend treatment programs to address these issues.

The Goals of Intermediate Sanctions

These sanctions aim to strike a balance. They seek to punish offenders while also offering opportunities for rehabilitation. Unlike prisons, they allow offenders to maintain their jobs, stay connected with their families, and continue their ties to the community.

Appropriate Crimes for Intermediate Sanctions

Not all crimes are suitable for intermediate sanctions. Typically, these sanctions are used for less serious offenses. For example, a nonviolent drug offense or a property crime might qualify. They can also apply to probation violations.

Benefits and Criticisms

Intermediate sanctions can help reduce the number of people in prison. This approach can ease overcrowding and save taxpayer money.

However, some people argue these sanctions are too lenient. Critics worry that they don’t adequately punish offenders or protect public safety. Supporters counter that, with proper supervision and support, these sanctions can be effective.

The Role of Intermediate Sanctions in Criminal Justice

In conclusion, intermediate sanctions play a vital role in criminal justice. They offer a middle ground between probation and imprisonment. By allowing for punishment and rehabilitation within the community, they provide a more nuanced and individualized approach to justice. Like the steps of a staircase, they fill the gap between the bottom and the top, ensuring a more complete system of justice.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/26/2023

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