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Sunday, April 19, 2015

CJ Admin Week 4 Discussion- Rational Decision Making

The discretion that exists in the criminal justice system is of a type that leaves decision makers relatively free to assign outcomes...to particular defendants but constrains the set or range of options that the decision maker can choose from (Ebbesen & Konecni, 1985, p179)

One particularly desirable feature of intermediate sanctions is their capacity to meet the proportionality
requirement of just desserts-based sentencing systems (Harris, Petersen, & Rapoza, 2001, p.308)

Intermediate sanctions' poor performance is often attributed to greater opportunities for discovery of
technical violations relative to less intensive punishment (Harris, Petersen, & Rapoza, 2001, p.308)

The high risks of revocation attached to property, drug, and DWI arrests relative to technical violations and arrests for other offenses indicate that decision-makers view violations that threaten public safety, and particularly strangers, in a harsher light than those that bring about harm mainly to the probationer in question.Harris, Petersen, & Rapoza, 2001, p.316)

an individuals ability to think critically and to make an informed choice is at home in a society that seeks to balance individual rights with public safety (Jones & Kerbs, 2007, p. 10)


Nichols is revoking Jim's probation based on the goals of the organization he serves; these goals are based on underlying theory. The underlying theories that Nichols is basing this decision ton are the punishment theories of just-desserts and incapacitation, as well as the due-process model of justice. Harris, Petersen, and Rapoza assert that community supervision programs are desirable due to the “capacity to meet the proportionality requirement of just desserts-based sentencing systems.” (2001, p. 308). These theories lead to Nichol's goals of keeping the public safe as well as protecting Jim's rights. Harris et al contend that community supervision decision-makers set higher risks to technical violations on drug offenses and “violations that threaten public safety, and particularly strangers, in a harsher light” (2001, p.316). Jim's interactions with minors and his drug use fit this criterion.
The organizational theory that allows Nichols to make such a decision is a flat model of responsibility. Ebbesen and Konecni make the argument that “the discretion that exists in the criminal justice system is of a type that leaves decision makers relatively free to assign outcomes...to particular defendants but constrains the set or range of options that the decision maker can choose from” (1985, p179); Jones and Krebs also laud this discretion as serving the organizational goals by balancing public safety with due process rights (2007, p. 10) Nichols needs the kind of information such as Jim's charges of soliciting minors to determine whether Jim presents a threat to public safety; in addition, Nichols needs the information regarding Jim's technical violations to determine whether Jim has fully satisfied the just-desserts proportionality of punishment, or whether those technical violations mitigated punishment since Jim did not meet his end of the supervised treatment arrangement.




Ebbesen, E. and Konecni, V. (1985). Criticisms of the criminal justice system: A decision making analysis. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 3(2), 177–194. Retrived August 29, 2014 from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=pbh&AN=12584413&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Harris, P. M., Petersen, R. D., & Rapoza, S. (2001). Between probation and revocation: A study of intermediate sanctions decision-making. Journal of Criminal Justice, 29(4), 307–318. doi:10.1016/S0047-2352(01)00090-3

Jones, M., & Kerbs, J. J. (2007). Probation and parole officers and discretionary decision-making: responses to technical and criminal violations. Federal Probation, 71(1), 9–15,60. Retrived August 29, 2014 from http://search.proquest.com.southuniversity.libproxy.edmc.edu/docview/213979040?pq-origsite=summon



It is impossible for Nichols to make a completely rational decision regarding the revocation of Jim's probation. Any organization, or agent of an organization that holds decision-making responsibility is subject to the effects of bounded rationality; “although we may strive for rational decisions, achieving rationality is unlikely and probably impossible. “ (Stojkovic, 2014, p.348). Payne and DeMichele point out just two of the influences that can impede purely rational decisions:” (1) the level of importance they place upon certain activities and (2) the amount of time they dedicate to specific tasks” (2011, p. 30) . Payne and DeMichele also discuss the cultural influences that can affect factor 1.

In Jim's case, Nichols can not KNOW that Jim is a sexual predator without previous convictions; he has to make a rational decision bounded by the information that Jim solicited, but did not assault two minors. Nichols must make his decision based on the solicitation charges and the a priori fact that Jim is willing to break the law on other issues.

Payne, B. K., & DeMichele, M. (2011). Probation Philosophies and Workload Considerations. American Journal of Criminal Justice : AJCJ, 36(1), 29–43. doi:10.1007/s12103-010-9101-3

Stojkovic, S. (2014). Criminal justice organizations [VitalSouce bookshelf version]. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from http://digitalbookshelf.southuniversity.edu/books/9781305465695/id/ch12-P148

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