Purpose of Incarceration The purpose of incarceration is not a simple question to answer. A prison is designed to keep a segment of the population segregated from another segment of the population. Having a understanding of why the segregation s necessary helps the manager or administrator apply or request for funding. During budget crisis or a recession, the manager has to be able to identify and explain the purpose of incarceration so that government monies will be allocated to the correct areas of corrections (Guillory, 2010).In the United States, over the last three decades, there has been an increase in the incarceration rates (Lynch, 1999). There are more than two million adults incarcerated.
The US prison population, in the early 1920’s was documented at 110 inmates per 100,000 and in1973, this number had grown to 700 inmates per 100,000. This growth has placed a significant strain on the government’s budget and in 2005 the cost for criminal justice expenditures totaled $204. 1 billion (DeMichele, Payne, 2010).In one way, the government has we done a great job making the civilians in this country, feel that the most dangerous people are being sanctioned for crimes against the communities. However, the government does not address the best plan for the majority of the inmates who will be released back to the community (Pinard, 2010). The cost of incarceration is about $76. 59 per day (Fry, 2010). For those who manage prisons, a review of the real purpose of incarceration must be constantly reviewed.
While incarceration results in some level of protection, we have to review the long-term benefits and compare the benefits to the cost of incarceration (Guillory, 2010). Most people will identify either rehabilitation, retribution or punishment is the purpose of incarceration. In the past and during the war on drugs, politicians were afraid to be thought of as soft on crime. This caused the politicians, who wanted to be re-elected, to respond to the emotional response of the citizens.
The results were, more prisons being built, lengthening prison sentences, and reducing treatment options.The public does not consider that incarceration rates have little to do with crime, but instead are the result of political and bureaucratic decisions. The politicians are extremely hesitant to using evidenced based practices, applied scientific approach, to determine which interventions reduce recidivism. Most politicians, policy makers, practitioners and the public are hesitant to change, mostly due to fear of the unknown (DeMichele, Payne, 2010). As a policy maker and/or administrator in corrections, the history of incarceration and corrections must be reviewed.In the 1970’s it was widely accepted that getting tough on crime was best and the warehousing of criminals was the best way to punish offenders and deter crime. Over time, the criminal justice system shifted to rehabilitation and then back to tough on crime (Lynch, 1999).
As a consequence, the United States is now the world’s leader in incarceration. One in 100 adults are in jail or prison and if the current pattern continues 11 percent of males and 2 percent of females born in 2006 will go to prison (Fry, 2010).In reviewing the history, there has been a constant pendulum shift surrounding five goals of incarceration to include punishment, deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation and restitution (Seiter, 2012). According to Getz et al (2010), punishment is justified solely on the moral grounds of retribution. The criminal justice field, especially corrections, must satisfy the public’s emotional desire to see punishment delivered to those how break the law. When the news is released of a crime, many individuals will become outraged and demand that something be done.
Most will contact their politicians and demand a change in the law. The public will demand the individual be held responsible and punished. This response is not new but is the foundation of the way the justice system’s policies were made, dating back to corporal punishments and public executions. Public punishment allowed the government to make an attempt to demonstrate their ability to punish criminals. Unfortunately, even as we know different, many justice policies today are developed on the same emotional response and not based on rationality. Incapacitation is defined as reducing crime, by incarcerating the criminal.While the criminal is incarcerated, crime will be reduced but upon release, crime will continue. This would appear to work in the moment but over time it is only effective if the prosecutor identifies high- risk offenders and assure they are sentenced to prison time (Getz et al, 2005).
Deterrence is the belief that people will refrain from criminal acts because they perceive a risk of punishment. There are two types of deterrence, specific and general. Specific deterrence, like incapacitation, can only restrain the behavior for a relatively small share of criminals who have been caught and convicted.
General deterrence, on the other hand, can potentially influence anyone. For this reason, deterrence is far more potent than the effects of incapacitation. Most Americans, believe in the “get tough” approach to reduce crime.
Individuals believe that in order for society to get revenge against those who break the law, the penalties must outweigh the rewards of crime (Lynch, 1999). Although favored by the public, this only gives the appearance of being tough on criminals. Individuals that believe deterrence works, believes tough punishments serve as deterrence to other criminals.However, there is no connection being tough, generally or specific deters criminality.
This idea that harsh penalties deter criminal activity is accepted on faith, rather than supported empirical fact (Lynch, 1999). Restitution on the other hand, is provided directly to the victim of the crime. This is a monetary burden imposed on the offender and is usually above and beyond what the crime actually cost because it will include the cost of the crime and the cost the tax-payer has to pay to prosecute the criminal.When restitution is defined, there appears to be an appreciation from the public that the victim of the crime is receiving compensation for the criminal loss. Restitution assures a relationship between the victim and the offender in which the victim is allowed to punish the offender, to a certain extent, rather than one between the offender and the state (Miller, 2007). Most findings indicate that punishment, deterrence, incapacitation and restitution are ineffective ways to reduce crime. It is noted that if the same resource monies could be redirected rehabilitation, the cost to the tax- payer would be reduced over time (Gertz et al, 2005).
Rehabilitative programs are the most effective in reaching our ultimate goal of reducing crime and reducing future criminal behavior which is the purpose of incarceration. The problem with rehabilitation is that it is the most difficult to proof effective and even more difficult to persuade policy makers and community members to fund (Pinard, 2010). There are at times, an appearance of inmates participating only as a front to obtain early release but regardless of the reason more likely than not, change will occur (Guillory, 2010).There are a number of agencies, both government and community, that are devoted and work tirelessly to assist myriads of inmates with rehabilitative services before and after release from incarceration (Pinard, 2010). Based on empirical research, rehabilitation works. If done right, the obstacles facing inmates are addressed, the recidivism is reduced and future crime is reduced.
Rehabilitation is the purpose of incarceration, and the important point to note is that the programs developed and provided while the inmate is incarcerated have the most success when based on evidenced based practices (Heese, 2009).Therefore, what is needed, especially given the public’s emotional response, is a rigorous approach to identifying practices that are less concerned with inflicting revenge upon an offender and more focused on shaping an offender’s behavior. The goal is to promote long- term behavior change. This approach uses social learning theories that assert that individuals are born and through a combination of life experiences, choose criminal activity. That means some individuals learn to commit crimes, while others learn that it is unacceptable to commit crimes.This allows the field of corrections to develop policies and rehabilitative programs that will shape the cognitive distortions of the inmates and not simply punish (Fry, 2010). For an administrator, understanding the purpose of incarceration is essential to successfully managing a prison.
Regardless if the inmate is incarcerated for a short period of time or for a lengthy period of time, changing the way an inmate thinks about crime is the key to reducing recidivism and ultimately reducing crime.Effective rehabilitation includes programs on reentry preparation, reunifying the inmate to the community and strengthening the positive influences (Hesse, 2009). The programs have to be based on principles that all people can and do change, all people have value and deserve respect and everyone who would like services will receives services. If programs are based on these principles, the public will be protected, the inmates will not reoffend and they will become positive members of the community.Regardless of the strategies or programs utilized to facilitate reintegration, there is little argument that inmates need assistance to obtain the skills and tools needed for success upon release. In order for ex-offenders to gain independent living skills, they must be engaged in pro-social pro-success activities in a constructive and beneficial environment (Hesse, 2009). According to Locked Up and Locked Out: An Educational Perspective on the U. S.
Prison Population, Coley and Barton (2006) write, “The public uffered when the prisoner’s original crime was committed; the potential for damage increases when the prisoner returns to society without a means of making it in the employment world. Despite a consistently growing need to prepare prisoners for life outside bars, as well as to protect citizens from harm and to reduce costs associated with incarceration, the investment in prison education has fallen, decade by decade. Reversing that trend is a minimum requirement, not a wholesale solution, for reducing the high rates of recidivism. Education, training, and transition support at the point of release are imperative”.
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Hua, J. , Moffatt, S. & Weatherburn, D. (2006, January). How much crime does prison stop? The incapacitation effect of prison on burglary. Crime and Justice Bulletin,(93), 1-12.
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