A defendant’s sentence should be postponed (at the request of, or with the consent of, the defendant) and the judge receive periodic, informal reports about the defendant’s ongoing conduct and, therefore, abling him to determine whether the person is walking the straight and narrow and whether the sentence should be deferred or adjusted, writes former state and federal prosecutor Joel Cohen in an op-ed for The Hill. The move could incentivize rehabilitation when the judge will continue to maintain the gavel for use after this period of sentence postponement ends.
Judges who employ this procedure could be making valuable contributions to criminal justice in helping to rehabilitate defendants and lowering the need for incarceration in an overloaded federal prison system. If a defendant runs afoul of the practice, the judge would be positioned to remand the defendant immediately to begin his sentence. And that sentence likely would not be particularly lenient — perhaps even harsher than it otherwise would have been. That’s the price a person should pay if given a second chance and he blows it, an idea that mimics the practice utilized in corporate law. If a prosecutor accords an indicted corporate defendant a deferred prosecution agreement, the case typically is put on hold for months, maybe a year or more, so that the corporation can show the court that it is, indeed, “cleaning up its act.”