Research Paper: Role and Evolution

Pages: 12 (3536 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] Factors that led to Development of the American Prison System

The modern prison system in America is a product of the 18th Century enlightenment. This instigated reference works on prison systems and prisons to provide brief shrift to the build up of places of confinement and prisons before the 1700s (Craig, 1998). While early prisons were hardly ever built expressly for the imprisonment purpose, most cultures resorted to makeshift dungeons or cages to confine prisoners in the accessible structures. Given that incarceration is widely applicable as a punishment in the contemporary world, imprisonment played a minor role in the punishment regimes in most nations before 19th Century.

The present American prison system developed as an option to whipping. The system used penitentiaries to prevent prisoners from engaging in crimes and revitalizing them into effective society members. Indeed, prison appeared to cause more offenses than preventing them. However, until the late 19th Century, anyone convicted of a federal crime got imprisoned in state organization because of lack of federal prison facilities (Craig, 1998). The system functioned as long as state prisons got permission to lease inmates out and received boarding fees from the national government. The numbers of federal prisons rose by two between 1885 and 1895. In 1887, the congress stepped in to put to an end the contract leasing of federal prisoners (Craig, 1998). In reaction to this, state prisons turned down federal prisoners leading to the formation of federal penitentiaries.

Numerous aspects instigated the formation of the federal prison system. The rapid rise in population and the promulgation of numerous novel federal laws led to increased federal prisoners. National indignation over the situations of state prisons and the horrors of the convict-leasing system that prompted the prohibition against leasing federal prisoners instigated the formation of federal facilities. In 1891, the Congress passed Three Prisons Act, which gave authority of constructing three federal penitentiaries (Craig, 1998). The first federal prison was constructed in Leavenworth, Kansas and it received its first charges in 1895. The construction preceded the construction of the United States penitentiary at Atlanta in 1902 and McNeil Island, Washington, in 1907. In its first decade, the federal prison system became different from the state system. By 1930, 5 federal prisons remained operational. Notwithstanding the additional federal prisons, these facilities became more overcrowded as the federal criminal justice system formed more breakable law. In this regard, overcrowding and poor recordkeeping instigated the formation of the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 1929 (Craig, 1998).

The Role of American Prison System

The criminal justice system functions to control crime through arresting, prosecuting, convicting and punishing those convicted of misdemeanor (Kraska & Brent, 2011). A major limitation on the justice systems is that efforts to control offenses must be performed within the blueprint of the law. Criminal law defines what is illegal and highlights the citizens' rights, and processes that officials must utilize to attain the goals of the system. Taking action against criminals assist in crime control, but the criminal justice system must also try to deter crimes from happening. Crime is preventable through numerous means. Perhaps the most paramount means is through the deterrent effect of courts, police and corrections actions. These actions not only discipline those who break the law, but also offer examples that keep others from committing crimes (Kraska & Brent, 2011). However, crime control relies on the activities of citizens and those of criminal justice officials. With the evolution of American Institutions to accomplish justice, control and prevent crimes, decisions must reflect political, social, legal and moral values.

According to Gelderloos (2009), the principal role and function of the American prison system is corrective purpose. The corrective measures used in the prison system include combination of punishment to the felons with the sole objective of promoting security and safety of the innocent people in the society. However, Gelderloos (2009) claims that prison systems constantly function as continuous risks against people who challenges government and other relevant corporations. The American prison system lowers and prevents criminal acts through detaining and rehabilitating felons.

Although the correction system hold three major objectives; to protect people, punish and rehabilitate the criminals in the society, it is not apparent how well the contemporary American correction system accomplishes these objectives. Nevertheless, the most apparent objective of the system of correction is to discipline those found guilty of offenses. The punishment operates as a disincentive against a person replicating criminal actions besides functioning as a paradigm to people wishing or planning to engage in criminal activities. Incarceration is one of the means through which criminals receive their punishments in the American prison system. Death penalty as well as lesser penalties with an example of probation is also punitive.

The prison system operates to protect people. It acts to protect the society from offenders, and entails streets policing and imprisonment of offenders. Through detaining offenders in prisons, they are isolated from the public and cannot do any harm that would affect the larger society. The prison system also functions to rehabilitate offenders. Good rehabilitation allows prisoners to behave accordingly and fit in the society following their release. The rehabilitation entails counseling, drug treatment and vocational training. Rehabilitation allows criminals to become productive members of the society as opposed to being a burden to the society.

Incarceration and Crime Reduction

Imprisonment is the most reliable penalty imposed by the United States courts (Hancock & Sharp, 2004). While less than thirty percent of people under correctional supervision are in jails and prisons, incarceration remains the principal for punishing those who commit grim crimes. Imprisonment contributes greatly to deterring potential offenders. However, prison crowding and reduced probation supervision levels spurs interests in the build up of less severe punishments, intermediate sanctions and less costly punishment, but more restrictive conservative probation (Thomas, 2010). Intermediate sanctions unlike incarceration offer different restrictions on freedom. These sanctions include home confinement, victims' restitution, boot camp, intensive probation supervision and forfeiture of stolen property or possessions.

Incarceration refers to the confinement of criminals in a prison as punishment for a committed crime (Escresa - Guillermo, 2011). It is a custodian sentence used to people convicted or suspected to having committed an offense. The goal of incarceration is crime control and punishment. Incarceration functions to separate criminals to block them from doing more offenses. It also functions to punish offenders for crimes committed, deter other people from committing offenses and to rehabilitate them. The goals of incarceration are achievable through incapacitation, deterrence and rehabilitation.

Incapacitation refers to the process of incarcerating criminals to block them from committing crime. Incapacitation entails a set of minimum sentence for particular offenses, and may need longer sentences for persons who depict a greater danger for crime repetition (Escresa - Guillermo, 2011). Deterrence, on the other hand, closely links to incapacitation, but it augment recognition of penalties for criminal activities. Rehabilitation functions to reform a person and corrects bad conducts.

Incarceration does not reduce crime. Apparently, the American Criminal Justice system is facing major crisis (Thomas, 2010). There are increased number of people in the United States jails and prisons than ever before. The process of punishing criminals through incarceration instigates the rise in number of prisoners. With more functional prisons than in any other nation, the United States finds itself in a condition that seems not to improve in absence of serious and real change. The modern prisons have turned to be a breeding place for drug abuse, violence, transmission of infectious diseases and mental illness (Escresa - Guillermo, 2011). The excessive overcrowding in prisons only makes the problem of crimes even worse. According to the United State Department of Justice, more than 2.3 million males and females are presently serving sentences in the federal prisons, state prisons and local jails. Considering the current population of the nation estimated to be three hundred and five million as at 2008, 2.3 million people are a huge number. In this view, the American prison system requires crucial changes (Dina & Todd, 2006).

An apparent link exists between incarceration and poverty. People living under poverty have fewer prospects to attain skills and education required to pursue meaningful employment (Dina & Todd, 2006). People living in poverty are much more likely to spend time in prison or jail than people living comfortable lives. Poorer families spend less time with their young ones, an aspect that triggers a rise in juvenile crimes. Poverty forms a ferocious cycle, as juvenile criminals are more expected to go back to the criminal justice as grown ups (Dina & Todd, 2006).

Unquestionably, prisons and jails are significant because all Americans hold the right to live safely in the society. However, people should not view imprisonment as a cure for offenders or criminal conducts. In some cases, imprisonment may not be the best means to put off further offense or rehabilitate offenders. Life in prison is not a pleasant experience. Nonetheless,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Role and Evolution.  (2013, February 18).  Retrieved July 19, 2019, from

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"Role and Evolution."  18 February 2013.  Web.  19 July 2019. <>.

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"Role and Evolution."  February 18, 2013.  Accessed July 19, 2019.