It is generally thought that the court’s have little recourse or jurisdiction to affect a prison sentence once that sentence has been announced. The truth is, that most state courts have significant jursdiction to alter, amend and modify a prison sentence. Depending on the state, jurisdiction to recall may exist for a period of one month to one year after sentencing.
The most obvious and immediate preentry court intervention, is to order a convicted felon to state prison for an evaluation, assessment, or other purpose, immediately before or after sentence has been imposed.
While this power is found in most state courts, it is most often used by individual judges on a case by case basis. A recent example can be found in New Mexico, where a judge ordered a drug court violator to prison (before sentencing) for a sixty day evaluation, to be returned to court, for sentencing (see: Preentry Prison Evaluation used in New Mexico)
Similarly, jurisdiction exists in many states to recall the felon, after sentencing, for re-consideration and potential re-sentencing. The intention to recall may be announced at the time of sentence, or the decision to recall may be discretionary with the judge within the statutory period. This form of preentry intervention is often used to encourage an attitude change on the part of a prospective long-tern prisoner.
In some states, the judge may sentence the felon to prison as part of a court ordered treatment program, with the understanding that the offender is to undergo treatment before returned to court for re-sentencing. If the felon is found in compliance, the court will may return the felon to a court based probation program in the community. Dallas, Texas is an example of a jurisdiction that sends drug dependent probation violators to prison for a period of up to one year. The felon remains on probation over the course of the prison term (and segregated from other prisoners), and returned to a drug treatment program knowm as SAFT, to complete their probation.
The above are just some of the existing variations in the courts’ use of an immediate prison term, to be followed by recall to the court for sentencing or reconsideration of a sentence previously imposed. They are considered here because they are generally thought of as a successful rehabilitation strategies, designed to get the offender’s attention, assess their suitability for probation, and give them one last chance to change their behavior before a prison sentence is served. It should be seriously considered on the program level as an alternative to prison; as a way to reach out to large numbers of offenders that otherwise would be on their way to substantial prison terms. “Remember, the best prison reentry program, ids not sentencing the offender to prison in the first place”.