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Sociology Of Corrections Essay, Research Paper

Typically, there are four justifications for punishment that are still used today in the United States: Retribution, deterrence, incapication, and rehabilitation. There are many ways of reaching these justifications besides prison today, which are made to help the current problems in the criminal justice system. There are many different views about the effectiveness of these justifications, and with all of the problems in the criminal justice system many questions are left unanswered today, such as……

How well do the realities of the correctional enterprise concur with these justifications of punishment ?

Reality in this aspect generally means the rate of recidivism for a given offender. According to Marquart and Sorensen, “It may be possible to manipulate certain gross features of the existing, conceptional prison system- such as length of sentence and degree of security- in order to affect these recidivism rates. ” (Correctional Contexts, Roxbury Publishing company, 1997, pg. 299 ) The recidivism rates for any given offender depend upon a lot of variables, one of which being, time of sentence. One harsh reality of the correctional enterprise is that the majority of the correctional institutions in the United States today are over crowded. A 1992 survey said that, “there are 3,500 county jails in the United States today, and there are 400,000 inmates inhabiting them.” ( Class discussion, September 20 ) This makes time of sentence difficult to be fair about when there is no room to house an offender, even if he does deserve it.

In light of what we know about corrections, how successful are we in achieving these goals?

“Which should society use” retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, or rehabilitation? Justifications for specific sanctions overlap considerably. A term of imprisonment may be philosophically justified by its primary goal of retribution but also serve the secondary functions of deterrence and incapacitation.” ( American Corrections, West/Wadsworth, 2000, pg. 6 1 ) Judges try and impliment sentences for these three justifications as often as possible when it fits the crime, however rehabilitation according to Clear and Cole conflict with the other three justifications. “…Rehabilitation clearly conflicts with the other goals. For example, the deterrent power of incarceration depends primarily on being unpleasant. If incarceration consists mainly of a pleasant rehabilitative experience, its deterrent power is lost.” ( American Corrections, West/Wadsworth, 2000, pg. 6 1 ) This obviously puts a lot more pressure on the correctional program, especially the judge and jury who are imposing the punishment. I would imagine that in most cases we are very successful in achieving retribution, deterrence, and incapacitation, however rehabilitation is used only if it deems itself to be absolutely necessary. Which in a lot of peoples opinions, rehabilitation should be the first thing on the agenda of the courts for each offender, however, that’s not the case.

How do current problems in corrections exacerbate the burden of justifying punishment ?

The current problems in corrections completely intensify the burden of decision making when it comes to the criminal process. This is one of the main reasons that we have so many new approaches for punishment rather then using incarceration. “Probation, restitution and fines, community service, substance abuse treatment, day reporting, house arrest and electronic monitoring, halfway house, and boot camp” ( American Corrections, West/Wadsworth, 2000, pg. 6 2-63 ) all of theseforms of punishment are available to help the courts decide something else to do with offenders rather then imprisonment. “Currently there are 4 million American’s under some kind of correctional authority, and 1.8 million are incarcerated” ( Class discussion, September 7 ) With the serious problem of correctional institutions being over crowded, it doesn’t help the institution itself, as well as not helping the inmate. This is not including the amount of money that it costs just to keep one person incarcerated for a period of time. With all of this in mind, come all of these new punishments that help relieve some of the burden of decision making on the correctional world.

Is imprisonment philosophically justified ?

In my opinion, imprisonment is absolutely philosophically justified. When a given individual breaks the laws mandated by society, he/she needs to be punished. I personally believe in the middle eastern philosophy of “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”. In America, if you are incarcerated, your entitled to three meals a day; as well as color t.v., working out and social time, schooling, and learning a trade. Is this really teaching a lesson, or deterring criminals from wanting to commit crime again ? Especially the criminal that is of low economic status with no education, which according to class discussion also has the highest rate of recidivism. I would rather be in jail where I could get three meals a day for free, then have to steal for my food on a daily basis. However, in the middle east, if you are cought stealing, they chop off your hand. If I had ever seen anyone walking around with a nub for a hand, I would never steal a thing in my life !!! People have to be punished though, you could not go through society, not obide by the law, and expect not to be punished for it. If everyone had a little religion in their life, there would be a lot less crime then there is today because people would understand that god will take care of you if you allow him to be a part of your life.

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