Adult Sentencing & Release Guidelines: Utah Sentencing Commission
The Guidelines also include the Response and Incentive Matrix Tools (RIM). RIM was created to give swift, certain, consistent and proportionate responses to both compliance with, and violations of, the conditions of supervision by integrating behavioral principals into graduated responses. Positive reinforcements should be provided at a fixed ratio schedule, meaning that after each occurrence of the desired behavior or skill, some reinforcement is provided. In relation to sanctions applied, positive reinforcements should be provided at a ratio of approximately 4:1 (four incentives for every one sanction). All options within RIM are dependent upon available resources and do not create a right on behalf of an individual convicted of a crime.
An evidence-based approach to violations of supervision conditions provides a response that is swift, certain, consistent, proportionate, and fundamentally fair.
1. Swift, Certain, Consistent, Proportionate
Behavior modification research clearly indicates that the effectiveness of a reward or a sanction decreases exponentially as more time passes following the behavior. Behavior modification research also clearly indicates that both rewards and sanctions should be certain. The certainty of a sanction establishes a credible and consistent threat, creating a clear deterrent due to the definite nature of the response.
The certainty of reinforcements for positive behavior is equally important. Positive reinforcements should be provided at a Fixed Ratio 1 (FR1) schedule, meaning that after each occurrence of the desired behavior or skill, some reinforcement (even verbal praise) is provided. In relation to sanctions applied, positive reinforcements should be provided at a ratio of approximately 4:1 (four incentives for every one sanction). It may seem counterintuitive to impose a sanction and provide a reward simultaneously. However, for behavior modification purposes, positive behavior should actually be monitored and rewarded four times as much as negative behavior.
The proportionality or magnitude of the reinforcer/punisher should also be commensurate to the precipitating behavior. The general rule is that moderate responses are best. If a sanction is too weak, the individual may habituate to that sanction and it will never produce the desired effect of reducing the precipitating behavior. If a sanction is too severe, there is a “ceiling effect,” as there is no room to graduate the sanction in the future if violations escalate.
It is the recommendation of the Sentencing Commission that the use of practices which do not incorporate these basic principles of evidence-based practices be discontinued.
2. Fundamental Fairness
Beyond the basic concepts of swift, certain, and proportionate responses is the goal that both sentencing and enforcement of supervision terms should be imposed through a process which is fundamentally fair. Utah Supreme Court Justice Matthew B. Durrant explained the concept of “Procedural Fairness” in his 2014 State of the Judiciary Address:
“The elements of procedural fairness are voice, neutrality, and respect. Voice means the ability of court participants to express their viewpoints. In other words, the judge asks for input and actively listens. Neutrality means just that – consistently applied legal principles, unbiased decision makers, and a ‘transparency’ in how decisions are made. Lastly, respect, meaning individuals are treated with dignity and their rights are affirmatively protected. It means that judges not only protect the rights of litigants, but explain that is what they are doing. It makes a difference.”
Extensive research confirms that how people are treated in court affects not only attitudes about the court experience but also their willingness to comply with court orders. People who perceive they have been treated in procedurally fair ways demonstrate significantly higher levels of compliance with court orders.
These principles apply equally to anyone in a position of authority, whether a Judge, the Board of Pardons and Parole, probation and parole officers, or others seeking compliance with orders or laws.