Handling the Dilemma over Community vs Institutional Corrections Essay

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It is the first day of break and Jimmy wants to have a good time with his friends. Long story short, Jimmy decided to drive home drunk and crashed into another car. The driver of the other car passed away.What kind of punishment should Jimmy receive? It seems fair for him to spend time in prison. Should he see probation after the jail time? How much? This scenario helps introduce the dilemma we have today as a society about institutional vs. community corrections. Punishment for crime has always been an issue for debate. With the growth of the American colonies, the colonists needed a system of punishment for lawbreakers. Many methods developed in Europe meant to bring shame to those offenders were adopted. Around this time, the world saw a change in punishment ideology; some began to stress that humans are not perfect and make mistakes. Thus, there should be more reform as well as punish. In 1682, William Penn made a push for change.

He limited the death penalty to cases of murder only and called for fines and imprisonment for most offenses. This is widely considered the beginnings of the prison system in the U.S. He also helped start the creation of jails, like the High Street Jail. The first federal prisons were established in 1891. Before this date, prisons were organized by states and territories. The establishment of parole and probation, or community corrections, began in the 1870s. There has always been and most likely always will be a huge social dilemma on what types and to what extent punishment should be laid out. Both institutional and community corrections have their pros and cons. One thing is for certain, however, that we do need a mixture of both. The current prison system has a number of advantages. Incarceration keeps criminals away from the public theoretically making the public safer. Imprisonment also punishes the convicted criminal by taking away, in a sense, their life at least for a short period.

This type of punishment should have the effect of deterring the offender from repeat crimes as well as others from committing crimes. Current prison systems are meant to be rehabilitative. Structure and discipline is provided by the prisons so as to educate and provide therapy for inmates. With the good also comes the bad. Housing a large population of criminals together can lead to networking and an anti-social encouragement to continue crime. Probably the biggest knock on imprisonment is that there is a huge cost associated with housing an inmate. The public and law-abiding citizens essentially pay for the living accommodations of a criminal. The financial toll hits those families directly associated with the criminal. It is harder for a family to get by if an income is removed. If a family ends up needing government aid, the public is again paying for that. It can also be said that prisons lack the necessary resources to properly rehabilitate and to address the issues of how they got to prison.

One last disadvantage is that every prisoner is treated the same. A murderer would be treated the same as a thief. This may not necessarily be fair. Community-based corrections, on the other hand, also have a number of advantages. It is usually said that community corrections are practical and less expensive alternatives to imprisonment. Keeping an offender convicted of a minor crime in the community and out of a jail filled with hardened criminals would theoretically do a better job at rehabilitating the person and keep them functioning socially. Community corrections mainly offer the solution to the tendency of inmates to learn anti-social behaviors. Families will largely stay intact. Supervision and restrictions can help the person learn to be a more highly functioning member of society. Training programs and job placement work along these same lines. Community corrections may also have negative outcomes. For one, criminals will still be walking the streets.

If an offender is set to live in a halfway house, the community around the house could become undesirable. Nearby residents may feel threatened. Community corrections are not totally free either. Systems like halfway houses do cost money, although the overall cost of community corrections is appealing in comparison to institutional corrections. Many believe that prisonization is tantamount to socialization into a criminal culture. Therefore, being in a prison is thought equivalent to being in a school for crime (Tittle, 263). Research has shown that inmates will often grow loyalty each other and can develop a hostility towards prison officials. The society in a prison is largely based on putting value in things not as valuable otherwise. The overall effect is not one conducive to rehabilitation into society. Some do say, however, that attitudes and behaviors such as this become less salient as the time nears for return to the outside (Tittle, 264) This insight can show how many might simply adapt to prison culture and can readjust once freed. Still, the risk of anti-socialization is there.

The argument can be made that prisons are not the greatest device for rehabilitation but that community corrections are not currently adequate. A push for improvements is being made. Prohibitive costs of constructing and operating jails make it impossible to get out of this corrections crisis even if the public wants toughness on crime (Rosenthal, 1). Policymakers are making a push towards more effective transition and community supervision. One large problem with this changing corrections climate, is that rehabilitation is being overshadowed by protection of the public and promotion of justice (Rosenthal, 1). One last important point to make about a need for more effective community corrections is that there is an increase in the number of drug and alcohol abusers and prisons are not the best place for these offenders.

Innovations have been made in community corrections such as intensive supervision probation/parole (ISP), home confinement with or without electronic monitoring, and residential options in community corrections. It is encouraging to see developments but the system in general is ineffective.Unlike some countries, we have no national probation service to provide service uniformly across all parts of the country (Burrell, xv). There are federal, state, county, and even municipal level providers. It is hard to be efficient and effective with such a non-standardized system. A Canadian study showed that well-designed and well-implemented correctional treatment programs can produce significant reduction in recidivism (Burrell, xvii). The overarching factor in the correctional dilemma is that we should attempt to do what is best for society. Justice does need to be served and prisons are a necessary evil, but not always best at rehabilitation.

Without proper rehabilitation, we will see repeat offenders. Community corrections offer better opportunities at re-entry but, of course, this is not always feasible or fair. An often overlooked portion of this dilemma is the families. Not only will the criminal be a lost cause if rehabilitation is a failure but often the families may fall into a state of failure as well. A study shows that two thirds of family members of incarcerated persons see substantial financial decline, general health decline, and damage to relationships with children and other family members (Arditti, 199-200). This certainly is not beneficial for society. In my opinion, there is a trend to be seen in this correctional dilemma. This trend appears to be that the main issue is a lack of effectiveness in rehabilitation. It is also very clear that institutional corrections is not usually conducive to widespread rehabilitation.

This lends the idea that community corrections and the community in general provide the real hope. We also now know that the community system is fragmented and decentralized and needs improvement. This is not to say that we need to completely stray away from prisons. Surely, that is out of the question. It is a necessary evil. To better society as a whole, community corrections need to be improved. I believe that we should move towards a system where only the most severe of offenders see true hard jail time. Further, a focus and monetary support should be put towards a unified community corrections system that is more apt at rehabilitating offenders. This is no small task. My opinions can be expounded upon as such: For all violent offenders and those committing crimes with wide-ranging effects should see times behind bars without question.

Data shows that there are large numbers of non violent offenders behind bars. Being that it is extremely costly to house a prisoner it would be beneficial to attempt to cut down on non violent offenders behind bars. The push would then be to turn to more social and community based ways of punishment. It would seem that this would be more conducive of rehabilitation. This group of offenders having committed non violent crimes may have more hope of becoming productive members of society once again. There is a certain level of toleration to be had. We must understand that there will always be criminals and some will never be fixed. Further, any system will never work perfectly. In my opinion, though, it seems there needs to a slight shift in momentum towards community corrections for economic, societal, and rehabilitative reasons.

Works Cited

Arditti, Joyce A., Jennifer Lambert-Shute, and Karen Joest. Saturday Morning at the Jail: Implications of Incarceration for Families and Children. Family Relations 52.3 (2003): 195-204. JSTOR. Web. 26 Nov. 2012.

This scholarly article was originally published in the journal, Family Relations. This article is meant to explore the implications of criminal sanction policies on the families of felony offenders. More specifically, the article focused on the social, health, and economic characteristics of parents and children to these offenders under incarceration. I found the article to be interesting and thorough overall, but much of it was more than what I needed
for the purposes of this paper. Still, I found the article to be helpful in my research and proved to be useful for anecdotes. As such, this source was used mainly for supplemental information. Burrell, William D. Community Corrections Management. Civic Research Institute (n.d.): n. pag. JSTOR. Web. 26 Nov. 2012. This article is part of the Civic Research Institute.

The article is intent on discussing the Community-Based Corrections System in general. The author takes the point of view that it is a decentralized and fragmented system. The article further discusses probation and parole along with developments in these areas. Finally, it explores the future of the system. I found the article to be helpful to my understanding of the community corrections system and to see where it might be heading. I used this article mainly for informational purposes and general understanding. Inciardi, James A. Criminal Justice. 8th ed. Orlando: Academic, 1984. Print. This source is the textbook for our Introduction to Criminal Justice course. It is meant to provide an overview of the structure, processes, and problems of the criminal justice system in the United States.

The book provides lots of basic and some in depth information and accompanying support, data, and analysis. I find the book to be helpful and capable ox offering explanations easy to comprehend. I have used this book mainly as a guide and a source for general information on the topic and not for more in depth purposes. Rosenthal, C. S. Opportunities in Community Corrections. National Criminal Justice Reference Service. National Council on Crime and Delinquency, 1989. Web. 25 Nov. 2012. . This article published in the National Criminal Justice Reference Service is focused on why there would be community based corrections, what they are, how effective they have been, and what is the future looking like. Similar to another article I have cited, this scholarly journal article does a good job of painting the big picture of community corrections. I particularly liked how this article was thorough in starting off with the basics and going into developments and then finally into some analysis.

This proved to be a helpful article in the formation of my opinion. Tittle, Charles R. Institutional Living and Rehabilitation. Journal of Health & Social Behavior 13 (1972): 263-73. Web. 26 Nov. 2012. This source is an article published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior on the topic of Institutional Corrections. The author of this article seeks to provide information and research on the extent to which incarceration is or can be rehabilitative. He finds and explains three characteristics thought to have anti-rehabilitative consequences. I found this journal article to be helpful at providing a detailed analysis of institutional corrections, both the presumed advantages and disadvantages. I used this mainly for more in depth conclusion drawing.

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