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Analyzing the Discontinuation Prisons as Primary Form of PunishmentResearch Paper

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¶ … discontinuing prisons as basic forms of punishing offenders in the U.S.A.

Although getting tougher to solve crime is the currency among politicians and popular press, modern day does not support liberalism and rehabilitation as the choice correctional philosophies. The rhetoric is based on two fallacies, i.e. that we aren't sufficiently tough. This is ironical because the U.S. is widely regarded as a state where incarceration rates are higher than any other country in the Western world. The second fallacy is that there is a serious crime problem. Although crime in the U.S. is at its lowest at the moment, we continue to use the same old conservative punitive methods of yester years (Pollock, 2005). One critic clearly describes the current era as the "penal-harm movement." The import of the phrase is that the early reformers of later days of the 70s were keener on the severity of the punishment and suffering as opposed to rehabilitation. This method has been around for over 20 years now. Traditional retributivism is credited to be the basis of this situation. The philosophy is largely backward and pervasive. It has formed the backbone of the premise that has sustained the increase in the rates of incarcerations and the growth of prisons. The good news, though, is that the growth of prisons seems to be slowing down. It seems that the responses to crime are increasingly getting favor from the wider population.

Background

There has been widespread research on rates of recidivism of the prisoners released from incarceration centers and those who have participated in alternative sanctions plans. Little research is available on the recidivism rates of prisoners released in customary incarcerations vis-a-vis the recidivism on the ones released from alternative rehabilitative and punishment methods. Criminology experts propose that such a comparison is near impossible, owing to the complexities that surround the concept of recidivism.

Because prisons are found in every country in the world, the temptation to consider them a default natural facility is high. Therefore, there might be little attempt to find alternative methods of dealing with offenders. Prisons are relatively recent developments in many countries; therefore, they should not necessarily be natural forms of punishment. In fact, prisons may even be alien to many cultures as a way of punishing offenders. Additionally, the use of imprisonment is largely seen as counterproductive in the rehabilitation of minor offenders. Unfortunately, the use of prisons as a way of handling offenders is on the rise across the globe. The irony is that there is hardly evidence that imprisonment deters further crime or that it even improves public safety (Handbook of basic principles and promising practices on Alternatives to Imprisonment, 2007). The world has over nine million prisoners right now, and still counting. The growing prison population contributes to overcrowding. The final result is a scenario of prisoners living in inhuman conditions that are against the UN set standards that demand respectful treatment of people serving their terms in prison because they are still human beings despite their current predicament.

The U.S. has over 2-2 million prisoners presently. The number keeps changing from year to year. Many prisoners are released back to the society to try and make it where they failed before. The added baggage of having been imprisoned before does not make things any easier for them. It has been documented that more than two thirds of the same group released are rearrested within three years of their release. Further, half of this number will be sent back to jail. The prisoners that have been released are not easy to keep track of. According to Western, the men seem to be loosely attached to their families and do not have strong links with careers or jobs in general. Serving time in prison tends to strain relationships between friends and family. Men often choose a solitary life after release (Gudrais, 2013).

Such men may be constantly on the move; spending nights on couches of their friends or may turn homeless. The difficulty in finding gainful employment leads to such predicament. The U.S. exemplifies the folly in incarceration with astounding rations of those in incarceration. It is estimated that one in every 100 people in the U.S. is in Prison. The total fraction of those in prison is seven tenths of 1%. Few countries match this ratio. In fact, only eight countries in the world have ever crossed half of one percent. The U.S. notably has less than 5% of the world's population. Yet it has almost one quarter of the world's prison population. Some of the reasons for this situation include a strict handling of drug related offenders and are a relatively longer sentence regime for violent offenders and that repeat crimes. There are 41000 prisoners in the U.S., serving their life sentences without parole. England, on the other hand, has only 41 people on such prison terms. Comparative studies show that as recently as the 70s, the country had less than a fifth of its current prison population. The so called tough on crime laws that were passed by state and federal governments with support from both political divides (Gudrais, 2013) changed the statistics. The U.S. is said to be conducting mass incarceration now. This is a situation that emanates from the number of those in prison being so large that they constitute a social group- Western. In his research, he has unearthed that 60% of all black male high school dropouts head to jail before the age of 35. The deterrent effect of imprisonment is smothered if it becomes a common practice because the stigma that comes with it is then lost. Western, further points out that the American incarceration boom has a lot to do with race as it has to do with crime. Reentry services are scant and ineffective. They, therefore have little effect on the imprisonment trend that starts way earlier before crimes are committed. The rise in expenditures by prisons as a result of the ever increasing number of those sent to jail triggered authorities to note that their methods were no longer sustainable. However, even with this realization, reforms in prison systems have been slow and painful. For example, California had record budget figures for taking care of those under imprisonment. The figures surpassed the amounts set for higher education. The cost of incarcerating one person in some places competes favorably with the cost of educating a prison at an elite university for the same period. 30000 prisoners had to be released to ease congestion as an order of the Supreme Court. California had to back pedal on their mandatory 25 years to life sentence for third time offenders. The sentence has now only been left to apply to serious and violence related crimes (Gudrais, 2013).

The voters in California have been called on time and time again to vote to repeal laws regarding punitive sentences. According to Western, the U.S. has finally reached their reform moment with regard to prison policies. Apart from California, other states have considered reviewing their prison policies. They have increased the application of parole and directed offenders for treatment instead of taking them to prison. Several states, including Colorado and Washington, have legalized the use of Marijuana as a recreational substance. Felony crimes have also been increasingly treated differently; with less severe punitive sentences in some states.

Discussion and Analysis

The numbers of adults sent to prison as a result of drug abuse from 1986 to 1991 multiplied by over threefold. As a result, the rate of violent crime increased by over 41%, within the same period. The average sentence for drug offences multiplied threefold or higher between 1988 and 1993; it was changed from 2 years to 7 years. The increase by 41% in the state prison population was attributable to drug related offences. There has been a strong emphasis on stricter sentences for drug offenders in almost every state. Washington reports a 966% increase in drug offenders imprisoned since 1980. The prisoners constitute half of the prison facilities' nonviolent inmates (Kopel, 1994).

New York reports 45% of all its new prisoners being drug offenders. Illinois on its part has five times more drug offenders in prison than it did five years back. The drug war has been cited to be a key factor in the number of prisoners in the correctional facilities- says the director of the department of corrections in Florida. The Department of corrections in Maryland reports that 40% of prisoners are there because of minor drug offences. Texas saw the drug offenders in their prisons rise by 350% from 1989 to 1992. There is a positive co-relation between the states with the highest number of drug offenders and the states with the highest number of prisoners. The figures are reported as follows: Georgia (27%), New York (34%), Ohio (25%), Florida (34%), Illinois (28%), and California (33%). Nevada has 36% and the state also registered the highest increase in prisoners from 1970 to 1990, where they reached… [END OF PREVIEW]

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