Corrections Trend Evaluation
Corrections Trend Evaluation
Correctional facilities have been part of the judicial system in many countries for a long time. Their continued existence is a product of the important functions the play in the judicial system. These includes ways that have been defined in law for dealing with criminals and offenders as retribution for their actions and to enable rehabilitation so that they are fit for integration back into the community by the end of the recommended period. Correctional facilities are used in the rehabilitation of individuals who have been caught and tried for breaking a law. The main aim of correctional facilities is to protect the members of the public from dangerous and potentially dangerous criminals who are a menace to the society. It then deals with the offenders to prepare them from re-entry into the society once they have served their time. Institutional corrections facilities are prisons where offenders and criminals are sent, away from the community, for incarceration so as to correct their behavior. They ensure the offenders cannot harm the community by putting them away, usually for the duration of their sentence or until they get paroled, when they are allowed back if they have demonstrated change from their previous behavior. Community based corrections are as a result of these and involve the rehabilitation of the offender within the society. They include options such as probation, community service and fines. In this system, it is hoped that the dominant values express concern for the victim, offender, community and agency (Sieh, 2006). The society has a crucial role to play in the successful and complete rehabilitation of an offender and their eventual integration into the society. This paper seeks to identify the evolution of institutional and community based corrections including expected future trends, as well as issues facing them. Alternate correction systems are also considered as they are an essential aspect of future correctional system that should be integrated in the judicial system.
Institutional and Community based Corrections
The concept of using institutions such as jails and prisons as correctional facilities for offenders became popular in the nineteenth century. Societies, both past and present, that are viewed as barbarous typically maintain inhumane prisons in which inmates have few civil rights (Whitehead, Dodson & Edwards, 2012). During the early times, the main use of these facilities was to detain and control individuals who were disturbing peace. Cells were used to accommodate those detained. However, the needs of the detainee were not taken care of while within the cell. The cells were not well taken care of, and those detained did not get proper care and food (Siegel, 2010). The detainees were released through pardon. During this period, the jails were indiscriminate, and men, women and children were all placed in the same jails. The conditions were still not up to par and those inhabiting these jails were not accorded proper care. As a result of these, there were constant pressures to improve the conditions in the jails and provide proper cells for offenders. An example is the Pennsylvania legislature in 1790 which called for the renovation of the prison system (Siegel, 2010). The result of the law was the rise of modern prisons and penitentiary that served the purpose of housing offenders and criminals. The initial prisons were used to contain prisoners in solitary cells and harsh punishment and silence were used to rehabilitate them. However, the current trend in prisons involves the use of physical and hard labor as part of the rehabilitation process as well as advocating for the rights of prisoners. Prisoners are involved in production of goods and working in the prisons at low wages. In addition, they incorporate information technology in the protection, supervision, time management and collection of biometric data from the prisoners (Siegel, 2010). They assist in easing the procedures and making them more accurate and efficient. Prisoners are housed under better conditions and provided with uniforms and other utilities that they require. Release of the prisoners is dependent on the duration of their sentence, parole and pardon. As the most popular correction system during the late 19th and 20th century, prisons have become quite overcrowded hence compromising their effectiveness in keeping prisoners safe and rehabilitating them.
The federal government and the state continuously experience exponential growth in the prison population yet resources are diminishing as a result creation of alternative form of punishment both prior to and after incarceration is becoming a necessity rather than an alternative (Bandy & Steen, 2007). To addressed the issues that have been brought about as a result of overcrowding in prisons such as reduced supervision as the ratio of prison wardens to prisoners is high, the has arisen a need to explore other correction options within the justice system. Community based corrections are a form of alternative correction systems that have become popular in the recent past. They provide lighter sentences for offenders who have not committed serious crimes under the supervision from officers in the justice system such as parole officers and police officers. Most of these are first time offenders or those who have been given parole from prison as a result of good behavior or other such attributes. Community based corrections come in the form of probations, halfway houses, community services, house arrest, day reporting centers and fines. These are the most common present day trends in community based corrections.
The current issues facing prisons include budget cuts, overcrowding and prisoners’ medical needs especially mental health. With the recent budget cuts for prisons, there are fewer funds for their management. This affects the conditions of the prisons as expenditure adjustments have to be made to accommodate the new budget allocations. As the prisons are already facing pressure concerning the conditions and civil rights of the prisoners, lower funds will make the situation worse. Overcrowding is also a substantial problem as it compromises the safety of the prisoners and the public as well due to the high numbers of prisoners. Prison administrators are not added as required when the number of prisoners increase and hence it is hard to control them and, therefore, more likely for incidents like prisoners escaping to occur. Another key issue is that of medical health among prisoners. In some cases, prisoners with mental issues are put in the same area as the rest of them thereby posing a risk to the prisoners. Mentally unstable prisoners are likely to commit heinous crimes even within the prison walls as they are not in full control of their actions. These issues are likely to continue into the future if not addressed thereby causing major problems within the community and prisons themselves. Prison administrators are also faced with many issues as a result of changes and conditions in the prisons. They include reduced training capacity when dealing with prisoners as well as high ratios of prisoners to prison wardens. It hinders them from effectively carrying out their work as they may not have the right training to deal with certain issues. Training on the current changes in the system and ensuring adequately trained officers are some of the ways in which the issue can be tackled within the prison system.
The use of alternate correctional systems within the judicial system has become a developing trend over the last few years. They include community based corrections that allow the rehabilitation of a prisoner outside the prison. This will contribute to the reduction in overcrowding in the prisons and provide an opportunity for behavioral reforms in individuals with the help of the community. Such alternate corrections will require the use of more supervisors in order to make sure that the affected persons adhere to the regulations set for their community based corrections. “Unemployment, broken families, lack of housing, alcohol and drug abuse, histories of psychological problems and mental illness, domestic violence are realities that are likely to be found in most offenders’ lives” (United Nations, 2006). When these are addressed, some individuals who have been led to commit crimes as a result of the above are likely to become law abiding community members. Alternative correction methods are some of the ways through which issues in prisons can be addressed.
Institutional based correction systems are closely being analyzed to determine whether they are the only adequate ways of dealing with offenders. Due to the current issues of overcrowding which have compromised the safety of the prisoners and the public in general, other alternative systems such as community based corrections are being explored as a way of dealing with offenders of less serious crimes. Community based corrections include half way houses, community service, rehabilitation centers and probations under the supervision of an officer to ensure no conditions set are violated. They allow the judicial system to relieve the pressure of prisons by only sending in those offenders who pose a threat to the community hence reducing overcrowding. More alternative corrections system should be explored to provide opportunities for effectively handling offenders within the judicial systems.
Bandy, Rachel & Steen, Sara (2007). When the Policy becomes the Problem: Criminal Justice in the New Millennium. Punishment & Society, 9(1), 5–26.
Siegel, L.J. (2010). Introduction to Criminal Justice. Belmont, C.A: Cengage Learning.
Sieh, E.W. (2006). Community Corrections and Human Dignity. Sudbury, M.A.: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
United Nations. Custodial and Non-custodial Measures: alternatives to Incarceration. Vienna: United Nations.
Whitehead, J.T., Dodson, K.D. & Edwards, B.D. (2012). Corrections: Exploring Crime, Punishment and Justice in America. Waltham, M.A.: Elsevier Inc.