Corrections system plays an integral role in the society including punishing, rehabilitating offenders, and keeping the society free from criminals. More importantly, corrections system has the responsibility to ensure proper supervision, punishment, and treatment of offenders inside correction facilities. In the United States, the corrections system, which includes jails, prisons, parole, and probation, serves over 7.2 million convicted criminals (U.S. Depatrtment of Justice, 2014 ). Over the years, the correction system has had a number of changes in terms of trying to improve the system for efficiency and reliability in its purpose.
This paper will explicate the corrections system’s history and different methods of corrections as well as describe the partakers of the corrections system with their functions and analyze the impediments faced by corrections administrations. Additionally, elucidate several inmate rights, describe optional kinds of corrections, including approaches of reintroduction to society and rehabilitation, and a list of other incarceration strategies with an evaluation of both advantages and disadvantages, unveiling their value compared to traditional incarceration strategies.
History of the corrections system and varying approaches to corrections
The contemporary corrections system is quite different from the ancient punishment system due to numerous changes that the system has had to undergo to become what it is at the present. The ancient punishment system involved an informal way of serving justice through a system called vigilante justice where retribution was the rule of law. It was believed that the punishment best served the criminals by giving them what they deserved. The victim or the family would receive justice through revenge for a crime committed. It is here that the old adage of an eye for an eye was widely used to punish criminals in a manner that if a criminal was charged of theft, justice demanded that his or her hand would be cut off in a bid to do away with the vice (Stanko, Gillespie, & Crews, 2004). The development of this form of system was majorly contributed by different cultures, which also contributed to the many different practices and philosophies used in different communities to provide justice to the victims.
Indeed, these practices and philosophies helped to reduce crime significantly because other punishment involved instant death of the criminal and because of the fear of losing one’s live; people feared and avoided crime. A rather formal system was later developed, which allowed the government to step in in control of crimes and assume the responsibility of punishing criminals. The common philosophy used therein considered a crime committed against a citizen as a crime committed against the society and therefore, the criminal would be served as deservedly so.
However, as time went by, a new system known as the corporal punishment was introduced where criminals were subjected to physical punishment. Notably, this system involved heavy punishments such as amputation, dunking, beating, and even death. While most communities relied on flogging as a corporal punishment, others preferred to amputate criminals in a bid to do away with crimes (Stanko, Gillespie, & Crews, 2004). Notably, the punishment philosophy commonly used in this system was called deterrence, which meant that, the punishment inflicted on criminals was meant to humiliate or even injure them to a point where they become unable to repeat their crime.
As the eighteenth century approached, the corporal punishment went on to include not only physical punishment but also psychological punishment, which involved building of many prisons as possible. These prisons were used as correctional facilities and not just simply jails to hold criminals while awaiting trial but to provide long-term criminal confinement convicted of their crimes and serving a sentence. In the 18th century, England introduced the transportation sentence on criminals, which saw the banishment of criminals outside England and sent to various British colonies (Stanko, Gillespie, & Crews, 2004). Besides the transportation sentence, criminals were also subjected to hard labor as well as penal servitude. Normally, transported criminals were kept away from committing crime where they worked in plantations. Because this system relied on the philosophy of incapacitation, psychological punishment was also coupled up by physical punishment, which included death sentence in the form of capital punishment.
In the wake of 19th century, the view of criminals had changed as people begun to see criminals as people capable of correction and rehabilitation in a bid to help them become good people in the society. Confinement in prison became more popular as a form of correction where criminals were confined in correction houses and still access certain basic needs unlike before. As such, criminals were given a chance to change through treatment, training, and education where they learnt activities to help them become productive people in the society (Stanko, Gillespie, & Crews, 2004).
Participants of the corrections system and their roles
The corrections system involves a number of participants including prison wardens or correctional administrators, corrections officer, probation or parole officers, and jail personnel. All these participants play an important role in the corrections system and without them, the system would be rendered useless and unable to carry out its mandate. For instance, the work of a prison warden is very complex as their job involves putting into effect all the director’s general policies while ensuring smooth running of day-to-day activities at the prison. Wardens are responsible to top decision-making process because they are the managers of all other workers in a prison (Peak, 2007). He or she is also responsible for the safety and security of all the people in the prison both inmates and personnel working in the prison. A prison warden is also considered a program administrator especially because of the fact that prisons act as rehabilitation centers. As such, their role is to implement re-entry programs for prison inmates in attempt to provide them with proper treatment, education, and training programs that help them to not only become law abiding citizens but also to become productive in the society once they have completed their prison term.
Besides, they are also responsible for management of funds available for each program implemented therein (Peak, 2007). The main duty of a corrections officer is to secure and control inmates while awaiting their trial or while serving their prison term. Therefore, they are mandated to enforce law in prisons and are never armed but carrying communication devices in order to call for help in case of any fracas. They also oversee all the activities and work assignments of inmates as well as escort them from jail to courts as well as from jail to medical facilities. Their responsibility also extends to conducting searches among inmates as well as submitting daily reports concerning the conduct of prisoners. There are over 5 million adults on probation and parole in the United States (Peak, 2007).
Probation and parole officers have the duty of supervision all these offenders in the community. Their specific roles include conducting interviews for victims and people in the community, validation prevailing compliance with all the conditions of probation/parole, continuous evaluation of the risk of reoffending posed by offenders to the community. Other jail personnel such as nurses and cooks also play an integral role in prisons in terms of medical attendance to injured or sick inmates and other personnel within the facilities and preparation of meals respectively.
Issues faced by corrections administrations when running a prison
The corrections administration is responsible for the management of prisons by assuming the role of leadership and clerical roles. The planning and budgeting of programs in prisons is also carried out by the corrections administration to ensure the proper functioning of the facility. Notably, there are several impediments that hamper the smooth running of a prison including overcrowding, budget cuts, and staffing, mental health problems among inmates, violence and sexual assaults in the prison.
It should be noted that, The United States hold the greatest rate of incarceration in the world. Therefore, About 50 per cent of the United States prisons are overcrowded. For instance, America has about 5 per cent of the world population but 25 per cent of the total number of prisoners in the world (U.S. Depatrtment of Justice, 2014 ). This creates further problems for the administrators as it strains on the available scarce resources including food, beds, and rooms. Besides, this encourages squalid conditions in prisons leading to outbreak of diseases and other consequences. Over the years, corrections administrations have had to deal with growing budget cuts while struggling to provide basic needs for inmates. For instance, close to 25 per cent cut over three years on the £ 3.3 billion budget for England prisons had extensive impacts on the running of the prisons in terms of staffing and growth in violence among inmates (Siegel & Bartollas, 2015). This problem is not only in England but also in other countries faced with harsh economic conditions that lead to budget cuts.
Another issue is the staffing problem whereby because of the growing number of prisoners and not a corresponding swell in the number of officers working in prisons. For instance, in the UK alone, the penal reform in 2013 saw a 30 per cent cut of prison officers, which translated to about 5 prisoners for every one officer (Siegel & Bartollas, 2015). This problem is rather complex as violence among inmates is bound to increase leading to more problems. This brings in the issue of increased violence and sexual assault among inmates in prisons. According to the United States Department of Justice, one in every 10 prisoners report of having been sexually assaulted, which brings to close to 500,000 sexual assaults in American prisons, which roughly 500 cases a day (U.S. Depatrtment of Justice, 2014 ). Other violent crimes among inmates include serious assaults leading to death of other inmates and serious injuries sustained. Dealing with such cases everyday is indeed a major issue among corrections administrations. Mental health issues among inmates are also a major problem among corrections administrations in prisons. Psychosis among female and male prisons is approximates at 25 per cent on average due to depression and anxiety. The most affected lot is women compared to their male counterparts.
Just like any other human beings, prisoners have a right to enjoy their human rights and access certain services while serving their jail term. The United States Constitution recognizes and protects the basic rights of inmates. For instance, pre-trial inmates have the right to humane facilities and cannot be treated guilty until their trial proves them guilty. The Eighth Amendment recognizes the rights of inmates to be free from spiteful and bizarre conditions (Siegel & Bartollas, 2015). Therefore, any infringement of the fundamental concept of an individual’s poise is considered a breach of an inmate’s right. Prisoners have the right to stay free from sexual harassments and other related crimes either from inmates or from staffs. All inmates have the right to access proper and adequate medical care for both long-term and short-term illnesses and for those inmates suffering from mental health problems; they have a right to adequate treatment just like any other human being. In addition, prisoners are entitled to their rights to enjoy freedom of speech including the right to be free from any unauthorized and intentional deprivation of their personal property by prison guards or any other person under the protection of the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution (U.S. Depatrtment of Justice, 2014 ).
Alternative forms of correction
Any form of punishment or treatment directed to an offender other than imprisonment is known as an alternative to incarceration. Contemporary corrections reforms tend to encourage a widespread use of alternative forms of punishment rather than the traditional punishment revolving around parole and imprisonment (Johnson, 2004). These alternatives include and are not limited to community corrections, home detention, fines and restitutions, and public shaming. Community corrections or probation keeps the offender within the community ad outside the jail but with strict conditions and terms to be followed to the latter such as meeting the probation officer after a specific period.
Another alternative to incarceration include home detention or electronic home monitoring, which allows the person to stay with his or her family at home but is not allowed to go anywhere outside the home. Normally, such an offender under home confinement wears an electronic device that transmits signals to a control and monitoring unit and such people are only allowed to get out of the house to specific places such as the court ass directed by the authority. Fines and restitutions can act as an independent punishment against offenders through supervisory fees and court costs (Johnson, 2004). Imposing fines and restitutions on offenders rather than keeping them behind bars can help to avoid the problems of overcrowding in prisons and other corrections facilities. Other approaches to rehabilitation and reintroduction of offenders to the society such as proper training, education, and mentoring could help to make offenders become productive and responsible in the society as well as keep them away from going back to committing crime.
Pros and cons of alternative strategies to incarceration
According to Johnson (2004), alternative strategies to incarceration such as community corrections, home detention, fines and restitutions, and public shaming have benefits not only to the corrections system but also to individuals in attempt to make them become law abiding citizens and productive in the society. For instance, it helps to reduce the problem of overcrowding in prisons and other corrections facilities. Additionally, the economic impact of these alternatives is that it saves money, which is always huge in terms of taking care of inmates especially in treatment and correction programs as well as medical provisions to inmates. Alternatives to incarceration especially for nonviolent offenders has several social benefits not only to the offenders but also to the society because they do not pose threat to the community and can still be productive in the society by engaging in different social activities (Johnson, 2004).
In addition, alternative strategies to incarceration ensures the safety benefits to both offenders and the society because they focus on improving the behavior of offenders in attempt to make them become productive and responsible in a manner that does not threaten the peace of others. Even after serving their jail term, the alternative strategies to incarceration help to create a safer environment for all making sure that they become law abiding citizens. However, these alternative strategies to incarceration also have their cons. For instance, these alternatives such as fines and restitution may not be appropriate punishment to change the mindset of an offender as they may take advantage of having money to meet the fines and restitutions to commit crime. Besides, some offenders may not have money to meet the fines imposed on them and may therefore be forced to stay in jail while awaiting their trial, which is still expensive for the corrections system (Johnson, 2004).
In conclusion, this paper has explicated the corrections system’s history and different methods of corrections as well as describes the partakers of the corrections system with their functions and analyzes the impediments faced by corrections administrations. Further, the paper has elucidated several inmate rights and optional kinds of corrections including approaches of reintroduction to society and rehabilitation. The paper also describes other types of corrections, with various approaches to rehabilitation and reintroduction to society, and a list of alternative strategies to incarceration with an analysis of their benefit s and detriments showing their value in comparison to traditional incarceration strategies.
Johnson, L. R. (2004). Alternatives to Incarceration in the State of Wisconsin. Journal of undergraduate Research , 1-7.
Peak, K. J. (2007). Corrections Personnel Roles and Functions. Pearson Education, Inc , 269-293.
Siegel, L., & Bartollas, C. (2015). Corrections Today. Boston: Cengage Learning.
Stanko, S., Gillespie, W., & Crews, G. A. (2004). Living in Prison: A History of the Correctional System with an Insider’s View. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group.
U.S. Depatrtment of Justice. (2014 ). U.S. Department of Justice Federal Prison System FY 2014 Congressional Budget Buildings and Facilities. Journal of U.S. Department of Justice , 1-36.