Approaches to Incarceration

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Corrections

I think that the main goal of our nation's corrections system is to correct criminal behavior. Unfortunately, because of certain factors such as size and budgets, the ability to correct behavior can be limited. As the prison population grows, the amount of money allocated to aid in corrections has to be spread out. This makes the corrections process harder as it reduces the amount of resources available to inmates. I think that this hinders the corrections process because everyone is treated the same while in reality everyone is different. What helps one person may not be effective for another. As the inmate population grows, the amount of individual attention given to inmates begins to decline. Everyone is treated as just a number rather than an individual. There is not a "perfect" way to manage a correctional facility. The administrators look at past actions and results in order to implement the most effective and socially acceptable way to run the facilities, and not all are managed the same. I think that public perception is also a motivator for prison officials. Everyone is concerned with public perception, which influences the actions and decisions of those with power over the prisons. Image management is the controlling of the public's perception of the way the corrections facilities are managed (Stojkovic & Lovell, 2013). In this paper, I am going to discuss the effectiveness of punishments geared towards deterrence, rehabilitation, incapacitation, retribution, and reintegration. All punishments are put into place to reduce the rate of recidivism.

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Deterrence is based on the theory that criminal laws are passed with well-defined punishments to discourage individual criminal defendants from becoming repeat offenders and to discourage others in society from engaging in similar criminal activity (thefreedictionary.com, n.d.). The fear of being punished is a huge deterrent when it comes to committing a crime. Punishments geared towards deterrence cause offenders not to engage in criminal behavior because of the unpleasant experience they suffered for their last offense. General deterrence is the ability to prevent non-offenders from committing crimes by seeing the pain suffered by those who have committed crimes. .

Rehabilitation emphasizes preparing the offender for reentry into society. Criminal sentencing that is geared towards rehabilitation can be anything from drug courts to boot camps. Drug courts and boot camps are wonderful ways to keep offenders from repeatedly coming and going to jail. Drug courts teach the offenders basically how to live in every day society. They are taught basic life skills and how to stay sober. I believe that this is a great way to help offenders because I think that once you start using drugs, your emotional and reasoning skills come to a halt. Boot camps are good for being a cost-effective sanction, to promote basic, traditional, moral values and instill a work ethic, provide discipline to youths through physical conditioning and teamwork, promote literacy and increase academic achievement, instill a work ethic, include activities and resources to reduce drug and alcohol abuse, encourage participants to become productive, law-abiding citizens, and also to ensure that offenders are punished and are held accountable for their criminal behavior (Bourque, B., Cronin, R., Felker, D., Han, M., Hill, S., Pearson, F., Jan. 1996). Boot camps are a way to rehabilitate the offender, to deter the offender from future criminal behavior, protect the community and of course, to save money. The offenders who go to boot camp are recommended for the program by their probation officers and are pending conviction. The primary candidate for boot camps is a youthful non-violent offender who has little self-discipline and poor life skills. Boot Camps for juvenile offenders are designed to build self-discipline, character, and life skills so they can become a functioning member of society. Unfortunately, juvenile boot camps lack substantial research as well as regulation and recidivism rates have shown to be no better than those of incarcerated youths are.

Incapacitation is based on a theory that he offender cannot be rehabilitated and that it will never be safe to allow them back into society. These offenders cannot be deterred from committing further crimes and incapacitation prevents them from having the opportunity to commit another crime and to put society at risk. The death penalty is the most extreme form of incapacitation, which guarantees that the offender will not be able to reoffend. In absence of the death penalty, incarceration in a correctional facility is the alternative to incapacitate the offender. More recently, incapacitation can occur by taking away cars from known drunk drivers and also by taking property and valuables away from known drug dealers. The thought behind these two examples is that without a car, it would be impossible to drive intoxicated, and without money, it would be impossible to engage in the illegal business of dealing drugs. There are valid arguments both for and against those types of incapacitation. I believe that if a person wants to drive while intoxicated or make a living by selling drugs, confiscating their belongings is not going to stop them. Criminals will find a way and will eventually have another run in with the law while putting society and communities at risk. The most common form of incapacitation, however, is imprisonment. With the offender behind bars, they are effectively being prevented from committing future crimes. I think imprisonment is the best way to go because it does ensure that the offender will not be able to reoffend and it keeps our communities safe from harm.

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Retribution is defined as the theory of punishment based upon the concept of just desserts, holding that those who violate the law deserve to be punished (Wallace & Roberson, 2012). Retribution is similar to the saying, “an eye for an eye”. The families of the victims want to see the offender hurt as much as they hurt or lose as much as they have lost during and after the crime was committed. Retribution is connected to people’s emotional response to a crime. In cases of murder, both society and family members of the victim often want retribution by seeing to it that the offender is put to death. In my opinion, an offender being put to death is the easy way out. I would rather see them rot behind bars for the rest of their lives with nothing else to think about except whom they had hurt during their path of destruction. Being put to death is easy, surviving in prison day in and day out, is not.

One of the most dangerous jobs is that of a corrections officer. They work in the jails and prisons with the inmates to keep order and a safe environment for both the inmates and staff. The main role of the corrections officers is to contribute to the success of the correctional facilities by maintaining control and order within the premises. Corrections officers work in jails, where inmates are awaiting trial, or have been sentenced to less than one year. They also work in prisons, where inmates have been sentenced to more than one year and more than likely have committed crimes that are more violent. It does scare me that it is such a dangerous job and it is as dangerous as being as police officer out on the streets, you never know if you will go home or not. There is a lot of violence in jails and prisons such as fights, riots, and even murder.

Corrections officers are responsible for the continuous supervision of the inmates. The daily routine of a corrections officer contains a combination of routine activities, such as handing out toiletries, ordering inmates to their cells, and performing inmate counts, all while having constant communication with the inmates. The corrections officers must always be ready to expect the unexpected. The job of a corrections officer is anything but mundane. Corrections officers have many challenges, as some inmates do not want to cooperate with them, as they have nothing to lose.

A Corrections officer must be trained to handle any type of situation they may encounter while doing their jobs. They must be very observant and aware of everything that is going on around them. Corrupt cops have also been known to smuggle in narcotics and other drugs for inmates. Regular searches of the inmate’s cells are done to reduce any contraband in prisons and jails. Job burnout is a possibility in the field of corrections and it has numerous negative effects for employees, family and friends of employees, the inmates, the correctional facility, and society in general (Lambert, Nancy, & Altheimer, 2010). This can result in a decline in work performance, which could cause them to let their guard down and can potentially be very dangerous for both inmates and staff. One of the most important roles of the correction officer is to make sure that inmates do not escape.

Corrections officers have quickly become outnumbered, while inmates have become more unpredictable. The officers, administration, and the inmates play a huge role in the quality of life maintained in the prison. Another large role of the corrections officers is to aid in the rehabilitation and reintegration of the inmates (Murat, Aytac, & Bondy, 2011). Prison crowding has greatly affected the fragile social relationships between both the inmates and staff (Stojkovic & Lovell, 2013). It is very possible that the best way to handle an inmate is to listen to them and consider their position, explain the officer's point of view, and then come to a conclusion. This allows the inmates to feel as though their point of view is being considered and that they are being heard, rather than brushed off and handled with physical force. This can help to maintain a healthy relationship between the corrections officers and the inmates, as well as reduce the amount of hostility felt by the inmates towards the staff. Inmates respond better if they feel as though they are being respected rather than being coerced into doing something by physical force.

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Prison officials work hard to maintain security and order in prisons without infringing upon the rights of inmates. One would think that when a person becomes incarcerated, they would lose their rights however, the inmates' rights are very similar to those who are in the free world. Some rights may be restricted in order to maintain order within the prison and to ensure the safety of both the inmates and prison officials. I will address the basic inmate rights such as the right to religious freedom, medical care, and their First and Fourth Amendment rights.

Inmates have the right to practice their religion as long as the practices of their religion do not pose a threat to security, safety, and the daily operations of the prison. Inmates may practice activities that are determined as basic views and beliefs of their specific religion. For example, prisoners who seek accommodations for religious meals may be provided with special diets as part of their religious observance, where reasonable accommodations can be made by the prison (Stojkovic & Lovell, 2013). An inmate's right to practice their religion may be restricted if prison officials believe that the religious practice can present a danger to the security and order within the prison.

The provision of adequate medical care is another basic right for inmates. Prison officials have an obligation to ensure that medical care is provided to inmates. Inmates can expect to get the same quality of treatment for their health needs, as they would receive if they were not incarcerated. I think that inmates are lucky in this regard, as there are many people who are not behind bars that struggle to receive medical care.

Inmate rights are also protected by the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Inmates' First Amendment rights are less extensive than other citizens' and their rights can be limited due to security or other penological concerns. Inmates retain only those First Amendment rights, such as freedom of speech, which are not inconsistent with their status as inmates and which are in keeping with the legitimate objectives of the penal corrections system, such as preservation of order, discipline, and security. In this regard, prison officials are permitted to open all mail directed to inmates to ensure that it does not include any type of contraband such as any type of weapons or drugs, but they may not remove parts of correspondence that they find simply offensive or rude.

The Fourth Amendment was intended to create a constitutional buffer between U.S. citizens and the intimidating power of law enforcement. It has three components. First, it establishes a privacy interest by recognizing the right of U.S. citizens to be "secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects." Second, it protects this privacy interest by prohibiting searches and seizures that are "unreasonable" or are not authorized by a warrant based upon probable cause. Third, it states that no warrant may be issued to a law enforcement officer unless that warrant describes with particularity "the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized” (Fourth Amendment, n.d.). Although prisoners retain certain fundamental rights of personal privacy, prison officials may searchtheir cells at random without violating the Fourth Amendment because prisoners have no reasonable expectation of privacy within their cells. Moreover, the seizure by prison officials of an inmate's property does not constitute a Fourth Amendment violation if the seizure serves legitimate institutional interests (Lucero, Bernhardt, Johnson, & Geunther, 2002).

Criminal convictions and lawful imprisonment deprive citizens of their freedom and many other constitutional rights, but prisoners retain constitutional rights that remain compatible with the objectives of incarceration. I think that there are much more effective ways, other than confinement, to control the amount of criminal behavior in our communities, and I definitely think that we are paying too much for corrections. I think that we could do a lot better at reducing recidivism, rehabilitating offenders and making sure inmates are ready to reenter society. I think inmates should be evaluated regularly to see if probation or parole would be a good match for them. This would reduce the amount of inmates in our prisons. I also think that better programs could be available to inmates during their stay behind bars to better prepare them for the outside world. When an inmate has been incarcerated for a long period of time, they have a lot of anxieties about going out into society and taking care of themselves as normal adults do. Better programs to help them have a skill and have a better chance of finding a job could reduce the recidivism rate among offenders. I think they get comfortable in prisons and jails where they do not have much responsibility, if any, to take care of themselves. I think that education, a chance to acquire a skill, and rehabilitation could help a lot of inmates get back into society. Parole and probation officers should be required to make sure that the offender is taking advantage of resources available to them outside the prison walls to better ensure that they feel comfortable as they reenter society, and to help them stay on the right path.

I think probation should be available to offenders of non-violent crimes. If it is anything else, such as drug related or burglary, I think offenders should be assessed for the possibility of rehabilitation vs. recidivism on probation. Probation is considered to be a desirable alternative to institutionalization because it promotes the rehabilitation of offenders because they can maintain normal community contacts by living at home, attending school or work, and participating in community activities. However, this is not always the case. I think that offenders need some sort of aftercare like counseling for any drug or personal issues. They need to have resources available while under supervision in order to ensure they are taking advantage of these resources. Unfortunately, probation officers today have an increasing caseload so they are having a harder time giving the amount of supervision that is needed. I think in order to help the justice system be successful with probation is to make sure that each person on probation is being checked up on an ongoing and regular basis in order to make sure they are taking advantage of the additional help from outside resources and not just letting the time tick away. Supervision of the offender while on probation serves as a means to protect society as well as making sure that the offender is in compliance with the requirements of their probation (Stojkovic & Lovell, 2013). I recently read an article by John Dilulio, Jr. (1997) where he proposes that if offenders violate probation, throw them in jail, and add on a year or two to their sentence. This could be a definite deterrence to committing another crime while on probation. I had a friend who was placed on probation and continued her dangerous behaviors while on probation. I think this is one of the major challenges of placing offenders on probation. My friend continued to use and abuse drugs and her behavior caught up with her when she had to do a random drug test while meeting with her probation officer. Needless to say, she failed the drug test and was sent to jail for two weeks. In her case, she learned her lesson and quit using drugs upon release. Again, I think probation is most effective when the offender sincerely wants to change and improve their behaviors and lifestyle. Some people do not take probation seriously, which in the long run, if their criminal behaviors continue while on probation, they will quickly learn that violating probation is a serious matter as they are sent to jail, possibly for the remainder of their probationary period. Reintegration is a process in which offenders get transitional care after completing their treatment in prison. It is best that the community be involved in order for the offender to be successful in their return to society. The goal of the reintegration process is to assist in helping the offender become a law-abiding citizen along with the help of community programs geared towards the success of the reintegration of the offender (Stojkovic & Lovell, 2013). Community programs that are focused on the reintegration of offenders are designed to include the offender in community activities with the goal of helping the offender adopt an acceptable lifestyle within the community. There are many community-based programs to assist with reintegration such as education, counseling, and additional support services. I think that community involvement is very important in regards to reintegration. I think this type of involvement from the community shows the offender that they are not alone, as well as helping the offender feel as if they are a part of the community. I think they feel the need to feel accepted, and community-based programs help them to feel this way. The community-based resources help the offenders learn basic life skills and help to reduce the anxiety they have as they reenter society. With the help of the community and the desire of the offender to change their behaviors, I believe these types of programs can be very successful. I think that the most important part of the reintegration process is the offender's desire to change and to live a law-abiding lifestyle.