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Revamping the Criminal Justice System Using Rehabilitation Programs

The United States imprisonment rate increased during the periods 1975 to 2009 due to decrease in employment. From 1925 to 1975, United States prison incarcerated rate was about 100 out of every 100,000 people (Western, 2007). The total incarceration rate exceeded 700 per 100,000, which equated to 2.1 million inmates when inmates of local jails were counted in the penal population in 2005 (Western, 2007). The incarceration rate increased in 1980 from approximately 140 out of 100,000 to 500 per 100,000 in 2008 (Bureau of Justice, 2008) (See Figure 1).

Comparatively, for the first time in nearly 40 years, the number of state prisoners in the United States has declined. The survey data compiled by the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States, in partnership with the Association of State Correctional Administrators, indicate that as of January 1, 2010, there were 1,404,053 persons under the jurisdiction of state prison authorities, 4,777 (0.3 percent) fewer than there were on December 31, 2008. This marks the first year-to-year drop in the state prison population since 1972.

In this period, however, the nation’s total prison population increased by 2,061 people because of a jump in the number of inmates under the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The federal count rose by 6,838 prisoners, or 3.4 percent in 2009, to an all-time high of 208,118.

The Pew Charitable Trust Public Safety Performance Project 2007 estimates the nation's state and federal prisons number to increase to more than 1.7 million by the end of 2011, a 13 percent increase. This increase is more than 192,000 from 2006 (PCTPSP). The Bureau of Prison (BOP) expects increases of at least 7,000 per year in FY 2010 and FY 2011. It projects at least 4,500 net new inmates each year after 2011. The BOP’s current population of 208,477 is expected to increase to over 222,000 by the end of fiscal year 2011 (BOP).

The Pew Charitable Trust Public Safety Performance Project 2007 projects the nation's population, by comparison to grow by 4.5 percent in that time. The study is the first of its kind to project prison populations in every state through 2011, based on state projections, current criminal justice policies, and demographic trends. With the raise in the prison population, it could cost the taxpayers around $27.5 billion dollars over the next five years.

The U.S. Department of Justice Federal Prison System FY2011 Performance projects inmate care and programs cost to be $2,382,820,000. These costs include inmate food, medical care, institutional and release clothing, welfare services, transportation, gratuities, staff salaries (including salaries of Health Resources and Services Administration commissioned officers), and operational costs of functions directly related to providing inmate care. Remarkably, 13 states now devote more than $1 billion a year in general funds to their corrections systems. The undisputed leader is California, where spending totaled $8.8 billion last year. Even when adjusted for inflation that represents a 216 percent increase over the amount California spent on corrections 20 years earlier. The governor signed a bill authorizing another $7.9 billion in spending, through lease revenue bonds, for 53,000 more prison and jail beds last year.

Texas, with a slightly larger number of inmates, ranks a distant second in spending, investing roughly $3.3 billion last year. State corrections spending figures are from the most recent data available from the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO).

The California Legislative Analysis Office estimated the annual cost to house an inmate in 2008/2009 was $47,000. Since 2000-01, the average annual cost has increased by about $19,500. Inmate housing in 2011 is $86,000, based on the average annual cost increase. While the Florida Department of Corrections states it costs $20,108 per year to keep an inmate in prison in fiscal years 2007/2008. The California Legislative Analysis Office and Florida Department of Corrections reported the daily cost to incarcerate an inmate in a major prison is spent on security and medical services. The remaining 20% or so is for feeding, clothing and educating inmates, and some administrative issues.

In a society where criminal rates are on the rise, many questions need answers concerning an individual’s mindset when he commits such crimes. Within this criminal justice system, the government creates rehabilitation programs in hopes to diminish criminal activity. In order to understand this system, we must first grasp the history behind the minds of those criminals. As with many problematic concerns, many researchers study their family lifestyles. Do family environments have an influence on childhood aggression and its contribution to crime? An individual’s influence to commit crime begins in the early developmental stages of a child. Patterns of interactions between family members can influence a child’s development patterns, one in which can be aggression. Displaying forms of aggression and hostility in early development can further implement strategies to execute these aggressive patterns by performing criminal acts. Is it appropriate to justify crime by means of a child growing up in a coercive home environment and witnessing hostile interactions between family members? Poor parental discipline has the ability to lead the child more towards delinquency. With this, a child has the ability to use what they have witnessed in the home to validate their actions amongst others; thus leading to encouraged crime. With this in mind, if the individual grew up in a dysfunctional household, a rehabilitation program may not be as effective due to their environment.

Even though family issues may be the primary cause of such behavior, societal impact may cause an increase in crime rates-psychologically, economically, and mentally. These negative societal ways encourage many to turn towards violence in hopes to regain a sense of autonomy. As we witness the downfall of the economy, many experience psychological issues surrounding the negativity demonstrated throughout society. Along with this, the media seems to attract a majority of individuals with psychological issues; thus, allowing it to be one of the biggest influences. Within society, we see a widespread growth in media that subconsciously promotes violence amongst all ages, i.e. video games, movies, news.

Individuals are experiencing depressive moods and other psychological issues, which may affect their ability to succeed in what they wish to accomplish. As jobs and the education systems are experiencing financial hardships, the success rates of young adults are declining, which encourages acts of delinquency. By offering programs, while an individual is in the criminal justice system it provides an alternative method to deal with such negative influences. Implementing these programs can empower these individuals to handle their problems and seek alternatives for their unhappiness.

A final factor that leads to the development of crime is family socioeconomic status. The family’s income, parental education level, parental occupation, and one’s social status in the community determines the family's socioeconomic status. Families with lower socioeconomic status often lack the financial, social, and educational support that characterizes families with higher socioeconomic status. Poor families may also have inadequate or limited access to community resources that promote and support children's development and school readiness. A family’s socioeconomic status can lead a child to misbehave. One’s status in this society can contribute to mental instability, which can possibly encourage the child to become independent. The increasing rate of unemployment allows family status to decline. In hopes to regain stability, criminal acts maybe conducted. Experiencing depression due to financial instability can also lead to an increase of criminal acts.

The government is searching for ways to revamp the criminal justice system in hopes of rehabilitating the inmates while still keeping society safe and reducing their budgets. California’s fiscal crisis is resulting in a reduction of $250 million in Fiscal Year 2009-10 to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) rehabilitative programs for adult offenders, including education, vocational, substance abuse and other programs for inmates and parolees.  In order to achieve these savings without compromising public safety, CDCR is developing new ways of delivering rehabilitation programs to reach as many inmates as possible with reduced funding.  "The new budget reality has forced our Department to make tough choices as we weigh population reductions, staff layoffs, and a significant cut to our rehabilitation programming," said CDCR Secretary Matthew Cater. "We must target our limited resources for programs most likely to reduce recidivism and keep our communities and our prisons safe." "We are changing the way we do business to reach as many offenders as possible with less funding," said Elizabeth Siggins, Acting Chief Deputy Secretary for Adult Programs. "We are working on strategies to shorten the length of in-prison substance abuse treatment, utilizing long-term offenders as counselors and literacy tutors, developing alternative methods of delivering education, and increasing volunteer activities" (CDCR).

The criminal justice system hires sociologists and psychologists to respond to the above questions. Prison rehabilitation programs regularly seek to make available the skills in self-evaluation and self-development in order to assist prisoners in their hunt for greater self-knowledge. The three groups of rehabilitations programs are corrections, social, and deterrence.

As the prison population in our country continues to expand, many local governments/prison systems implemented programs that trained inmates for real careers and not dead end jobs. The Prison Industry Authority implemented programs that trained inmates for real careers and not dead end jobs. These inmates’ social status and lifestyles changed when they learned carpentry. Generally, the more education and training an individual have, the higher their salary. The combination of career and technical education along with incarceration for the qualified will improve their social status and therefore, reduce the number of repeat offenders. Overall, participation of the incarcerated in correctional education programs appears to reduce recidivism.

Various corrections rehabilitation programs can be very successful. One rehabilitation program that was very successful is the Full Circle Recovery program. This program started at the San Quentin prison. The Full Circle Recovery Program monitored inmates who were studying to become addiction and recovery counselors. The program gained substantial amount of attention from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment webcast, a segment on the National Public Radio, and widespread Bay Area television new coverage when the majority of the inmates passed their credentialing exams (Miranda, 2009).

On January 29, 2001, George W. Bush signed two Executive Orders establishing the Faith-Based and Community Initiative. The program was directed and conceived by Prison Fellowship Ministries, an evangelical Christian organization. The program offered inmates who participated in the program an opportunity to receive drug and alcohol treatment, adult education, and individualized counseling, but there were requirements to be accepted into the program; the inmates had to agree to take the Bible with them in their treatment process. The inmates and their families filed a lawsuit stating that the program did not provide treatment for the inmates, but was a method to indoctrinate them into Christianity. The case went to court and the inmates and their family won the case. The judge ruled that the program promoted religion therefore; it was discontinued. In June 2006, the Federal Bureau of Prisons suspended the Bible-based treatment program in six prisons, after a federal judge in Iowa found that the prison ministry program was in violation of the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution (Odle, 2007).

Another correctional program is Unmasking Masculinities. This program focuses on how to deconstruct inmate’s hyper masculinity in a prison environment and how to help them redefine masculinity. It consisted of creating men’s support groups in correctional facilities. Hegemonic Masculinity is the normative ideals of masculinity to which men are suppose to aim. Hegemonic Masculinity is not necessarily the most prevalent masculinity, but rather the most socially endorsed. Prison codes that are associated with contemporary American hegemonic masculinity: suffer in silence, act unafraid act hard, do not trust, do not help authorities, do not snitch, always ready to fight, and do not display any feminine ways. Inmates display this behavior in the prison environment in order to survive. They have conformed to prison codes as a result and have to show hyper-masculinity in order to survive. Inmates believe is necessary to present a hyper-masculine public façade that may conflict with a more nuanced private self-identity. “The Public persona that individuals present when interacting with other inmates may be a familiar guise, constructed and refined through a long process of socialization into male-dominated subcultures as a child, adolescent, and adult” (Jewkes, 2005). Various metaphors are used, such as mask or armor, to emphasize a distinction between a public and private identity. The armor protects the inmate from revealing vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and other qualities that might undermine a hyper-masculine identity. In 2002, Steve Spitzer a Professor of Sociology at Suffolk University conducted several studies inside several prisons. At present, these volunteer groups operated in four correctional institutions in Massachusetts, California and Wisconsin. The program used inmate volunteers to participate in the study. The program offered a distinctive and significant opportunity for inmates to experience personal growth and transformation by developing emotional intelligence and personal integrity (Karp, 2010).

Electronic monitoring is a social rehabilitation program, which is an alternative way of preventing aggression. Technology has affected society and its surroundings in a number of ways. Society is reliant on technology and utilizes it to make their lives easier. The electronic monitoring system is a positive solution to reduce overcrowding of prison, which cause violent behavior with the inmates. The electronic monitoring system assists inmates with social rehabilitation. The wrist or ankle has s small transmitter placed on them to monitor the inmates. Prison employee monitors the inmates at all time. The system confines the inmate to their home. The system has a schedule programmed, which allows the inmate to enter and exit their home base on the inmate’s work schedule and certain circumstances. The program has proven to be effective. The program has reduced costs in the prison system since the electronic monitoring system is being used as a form of confinement (Otero, 2009).

The courts also use home confinement as a form of community-based corrections. This method is used to restrict the freedom of defendants and offenders and protect society. The courts use electronic monitoring as a tool to monitor the inmate that sentenced to home confinement. Home confinement is not really a sentence in itself, but may be a condition of probation, parole, or supervised release, as well as a condition of pretrial release. The Federal Bureau of Prisons may also use home confinement for inmates who are released to serve the latter part of their sentence (Office of Probation and Pretrial Services).

Another social rehabilitation program that has been introduced is the restraining order enforcement, which is also an electronic device used in helping victims of domestic violence. This device alerts the offender that their victim is in the same place as he is. It allows the offender to avoid the victim through the utilization of adequate instruments and new technologies. The proximity detection device is composed of two units, that of the victim and that of the offender (Otero, 2007).

Deterrence based programs uses retributive punishment, restorative justice and normative theory of justice to instill fear on the offender so that they will not commit future crime. General deterrence is based on punishing offenders to instill fear in society, otherwise known as teaching society a lesson and showing the consequences of committing crime. Punishment has always been imposed based on the idea that it will deter individuals from committing crime or repeating criminal acts (Larrabee, 2011).

Fear-based, one-dimensional view of life that rules out the incredible complexity of human interaction and the awe and wonder of the human mind as it relates to the mysteries and vagaries of people trying to transform, change, and become "better" people or those who are struggling to see the world through different eyes. Spiritual progressives, secular humanists, liberal reformers, curious intellectuals, and the mass public should all take a critical second look before embracing this latest twist on criminology. One way to develop a critical perspective on these new developments is to take a closer look at the historical premises and aims of the criminological tradition on which contemporary scholars are building. An example is offenders are told to stop their misbehavior and, if they don't, they and everyone in their gang will feel the consequences (the stick). In other words, a gang member commits a crime and all members of the gang will face charges. Variations on this model are constructed to fit whatever group the offending individual is involved in. The social service part (the carrot) is then put into possible play as genuine offers of help are presented to change lives, but only if the offenders accept the terms of the possible consequences (Vrettos, 2010).

Kant's retributive theory of punishment, states punishment is not justified by any good results, but simply by the criminal's guilt. Criminals must pay for their crimes; otherwise an injustice has occurred. Furthermore, the punishment must fit the crime. Kant asserts that the only punishment that is appropriate for the crime of murder is the death of the murderer. As he puts it, "Whoever has committed a murder must die." (Kant, 1887) Kant’s theory is one of equality and you reap what you sow. He believes that the person deserves the punishment that they receive.

Restorative justice and normative theory of justice articulates three core principles: Principle of Repair, Principles of Stakeholder Involvement, and Principle of Transformation in Community and Government Roles and Relationships. Principle of Repair requires working to heal victims, offenders, and communities that were injured by crime. Principles of Stakeholder Involvement maximize victim, offender and community participation in decision-making related to the response to crime. Principle of Transformation in Community and Government Roles and Relationships goals are systemic change in criminal justice agencies and systems intended to empower community decision-making and maximize community member assumption of responsibility in the response to crime and harm. Building or rebuilding community capacity needed to exercise this responsibility and to practice effective informal responses to crime and conflict, social control and mutual support (Bazemore, 2007).

There is ongoing debate as to whether deterrence or rehabilitation is more successful at reducing crime rates. Evidence from a wealth of studies showed that the risk for re-offending is modifiable when rehabilitation programs are used. Recidivism rates in serious or persistent young offenders can be reduced by 50% in community treatment and 30% in institutional treatment. Studies showed that deterrence-based programs are ineffective in reducing crime and the focus should be on developing rehabilitation programs that do reduce the likelihood of recidivism (Ore and Birgden, 2003).

Congress has implemented various initiatives and bills to assist with strategizing to increase public safety, while holding offenders accountable and controlling corrections spending (HR 4080, 2009). Congress enacted these Bills to assist with managing corrections budgets resulting from shortfall. The three Bills are the Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act, HR 4080; Honest Opportunity Probation with Enforcement Initiative, HR 4055; and the Second Chance Act of 2005: Community Safety through Recidivism Prevention.

The Senate and House of Representatives enacted the Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act, HR 4080 also known as the Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act of 2009. It establishes a criminal justice reinvestment grant program to help States and local jurisdictions reduce spending on corrections, control growth in the prison and jail populations and increase public safety. The criminal justice reinvestment is a data driven program that analyzes criminal justice trends. It develops and implements policy options to manage the growth in corrections populations and increase the effectiveness of current spending and investment to increase public safety and improve individual and system accountability. It also measures the impact of the policy changes and reinvestment resources and holds policymakers accountable for projected results.

The Senate and House of Representatives enacted the Honest Opportunity Probation with Enforcement Initiative, HR 4055 in 2009. It is a grant program established to reduce drug use, crime, and the costs of incarceration. It authorizes the Attorney General to award grants for probation demonstration programs that reduce drug use, crime, and recidivism by requiring swift, predictable, and graduated sanctions for noncompliance with conditions of probation. Requires grant funds to be used for specified purposes, including:

(1) identifying high risk probationers;

(2) monitoring probationers for illicit drug use;

(3) responding to probation violations with immediate arrest;

(4) rewarding probationers who comply with probation rules; and

(5) providing for substance abuse treatment.

It also requires the Attorney General to evaluate annually probation programs for cost savings and to select an evaluation coordinator for such programs.

In April 2005, the bipartisan “Second Chance Act of 2005: Community Safety through Recidivism Prevention was introduced in the United States House of Representatives. The Bill provides inmates another opportunity utilizing programs established under this act. The Act entails expanding reentry services into society for individuals released from prison. Previous policies restricted individuals with criminal records from access to needed services like public assistance, housing, health, mental health services, education and job training programs (Pogorzelski, 2005).

Research has revealed that our criminal justice system requires changes in order to keep our society safe and to reduce cost. The Government, Congress, and the Senate also believe that strategies must be implemented in order to reduce prison budgets. According to “Public Safety, Public Spending: Forecasting America’s Prison Population 2007-2011”, State and Federal prison populations are expected to increase by 192,000 over that 5-year period at an additional cost of $27,500,000,000. States face a $350 billion budget shortfall over the next 2.5 years (Lav and McNichol, 2009). They enacted the Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act, HR 4080; Honest Opportunity Probation with Enforcement Initiative, HR 4055; and the Second Chance Act of 2005: Community Safety through Recidivism Prevention in hopes of reducing the budget and keeping the community safe.

Some criminal justice experts believe that the prison system and the government are putting too much attention on cruel punishment and not enough on rehabilitation. However, I believe if the criminal justice system would focus more on reducing the prison population by offering more treatment programs, education programs, and job skill training etc… it could reduce the aggression in the prison system, resulting in a reduction of recidivism.

Rehabilitation works in reducing recidivism. Inmates that complete rehabilitate programs are more successful when they return to society. The inmates go through a process called re-socialization, which is a sociological concept that deals with the process of mentally and emotionally "re-training" a person so that he or she can operate in an environment other than that which he or she is accustomed. Re-socialization involves a complete change in personality and behavior. These individuals are taught that there are positive environments that discourage the negative behavior. Proper therapy and counseling provides hope for these individual and they learn that there is a better way to live. In order for these programs to be effective, these inmates must want to change.

These individuals receive an opportunity to regain self-worth through rehabilitation programs. They are provided with careers, education, and training. They receive opportunities through rehabilitation programs that were not available prior to their convictions. Their social status change when they work. Statistics show that individuals that receive an education are less likely to return to prison. These successful inmates choose not to return to the criminal justice system after completion of the programs.

Conversely, inmates that are released without being rehabilitation face different barriers. They cannot find a job because businesses will not hire individuals with a criminal record because of the risk or lack of experience, break in work history, etc. They cannot find a place to live, especially those that are leaving the environment that resulted in their imprisonment. They arrive in the community with multiple disadvantages: drug and alcohol dependence, mental illness, no job skills, and limited education. Some of these inmates want a second chance to make it right and start a new life, but they are not given a second chance. Doors are closed on them, they get desperate, and go back to what they know how to do to survive, which is committing crimes. I hope that with the right help and public support the inmates can resume a productive, crime-free life.

Figure 1: Imprisonment Rate, 1980-2008

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