Does the criminal justice system work? This is a very interesting question indeed? Many proponents of system believe it to be a deterrent to manner would be criminals across the United States. However, many pundits point to high profile cases of Trayvon Martin or Emmett Till to show the inequities inherent within the criminal justice system (Crowe, 2012). Proponents for the criminal justice system believe that it is a deterrent for others who are thinking about committing egregious crimes in the future. They also believe it provides closure for those who have been innocently wronged by the death of a loved one. These individuals usually believe in the principle of, "An eye for an eye," in regards to life. The general principle that is fundamental to the argument for the criminal justice system is retribution. The belief is that all guilty individuals must be punished. The punishment should correspond to the severity of the crime in all instances irrespective of the circumstances that govern the act. In the case of murder, the individual should be punished with the death penalty. This argument states that real justice requires people to suffer for their wrongdoing, and to suffer in a way appropriate for the crime (Gardner 1978). These supporters believe is ethical as the crime and the punishment correspond with each other based on severity.
The current condition of U.S. prisons is mediocre at best. The U.S. has one of the highest prison populations in the world. America's jails and prisons house approximately 2.2 million people according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2010) This is over twice as many individuals than there was in 1990 and more in per capita terms than any other OECD country. If probation and parole statistics are used, the amount balloons to over 7 million Americans who are either in jail, prison, parole or probation. This represents nearly 3% of the nation's population. Current and former prisoners constitute an increasingly large share of the U.S. population, yet little is known about the effects that imprisonment and prison conditions have on the subsequent lives of inmates. Below is a chart depicted incarceration increases over the 80 years. Notice the large increase in recent years (Glaze, 2009).
Next, as explained earlier, America has the largest incarnation rate in the world. Figure 2 depicts these alarming statistics.
Due to the large influx of inmates conditions within prisons are of major concern. Conditions are not uniform in regards to geography. There are facilities in which conditions are terrible for inmates while others are better suited for rehabilitation. Conditions in prisons are a very important aspect in regards to the decrease in recidivism. There is very little evidence that suggests harsher conditions in prison equates to better recidivism results (Walmsley, 2009). Therefore, it would be better to have uniform conditions that help foster education and growth as oppose to austerity and defeat. With large amounts of prisoners currently in our system, it is to the benefit of society to make conditions with prisons uniform in order to help matriculate these members back into society. By improving substandard facilities to better help inmates educate themselves, society will be better off both financially and psychologically.
One program used to decrease recidivism is the death penalty. It is a very contentious issue with proponents on both sides of the argument having very valid arguments. Those who believe in its ability to diminish recidivism believe the death penalty would rid the world of a condemned murderer thus sparing innocent lives in the process. By allowing the murderer to matriculate back into society, the person could then murder dozens of other individuals before he is caught again (Walter 1979). Supports for the criminal justice system and the death penalty in particular believe society is better off by ridding the world of the influence of these murderers. Even by allowing a murderer to have a life sentence in prison is a threat to the prison staff that is responsible for these individuals. It is quite conceivable for a prison staff or fellow inmate who has been successfully rehabilitated to be murdered. Therefore, supporters of the death penalty believe it is better to simply initiate the capital punishment altogether (Bedau & Cassell, 2004, p. 69).
One rehabilitative program that would have a profound impact on society is that of prison education. There is a very strong positive correlation between education, income levels, and criminal activity. Education can be a large determinant if a person will be successful, productive member of society or a burden to society. The most educationally disadvantaged segment of our populations is in prison which contributes to them being in prison in the first place. Education programs are intended to correct this educational disparity between inmates and the rest of society. These programs first allow inmates to obtain a GED or training for employment purposes. These programs have been created with reducing infractions and allowing inmates to become productive members of society. However, recently there has been a need to revamp these programs as revenue has become stagnant, while jail populations continue to increase. Individuals fail to realize that the cost savings associated with these programs far outweigh the increase costs. For example, inmates generally become productive members of society which in turn increases consumption. Consumption is 70% of our current GDP. Also, these individuals will also pay taxes to help bolster further increases to support initiatives across the nation.
Currently, there are only two surveys that provide insight into the effectiveness of these programs. These surveys are entitled, Survey of Inmates of State and Federal Correctional Facilities and the Census of State and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities. The literature documents indicate inmate participation and outcomes. However, the shortcoming of the documents is that they don't give detailed information about performance metrics. In order to provide funding and increase the budgetary needs of the educational prison system more transparency will be needed. This is especially important if the success rates of the program can be quantified on a more detailed basis. For one, we know between 1991 and 2007, GED obtainment increased from 22.6 million to 25.7 million. Likewise, postsecondary schooling decreased from 18.8 million to 17.8 million. Meanwhile the overall prison population increase 87% during that period! Also, and potentially more alarming, is the fact that only 30% of state prisons offer college coursework. Additionally only 58% of state prisons offer vocationally training and only 80% adult basic education. This is absolutely appalling giving the known fact that education actually helps decrease the likelihood of repeat offenses. Finally in regards to overall participation levels, only 56% of all inmates actually participate in these programs, which is staggering. Armed with these basic yet powerful statistics a few suggestions should come to mind in order to first increase revenue to state prisons and secondly to help slow the rapid growth of inmates. First, all state and federal prisons should be required to provide a comprehensive and broad array of training curriculum. The fact that only 30% of state prisons offer this form of training is a detriment to society in my opinion. Further, the benefits, costs, and adoption rates should all become public knowledge but on a more detailed basis. Campaigns should be initiated to showcase the merits of such programs. This in turn will generate support for the programs and eventual funding. Finally, more inmates need to be enrolled in the program to insure productive members of society are indeed being created. Crime has a direct correlation to education. Is it any wonder that 47% of African-Americans fail to graduate high school yet 50% of inmates are African-American? I think not. If we can educate more individuals we can help alleviate some of the rampant crime we currently see.
I personally believe that the criminal justice system works in aggregate but does need minor alterations. The first major alteration to the system would be proper education of individuals who have committed a crime. The prison education systems overall, are not being utilized properly. This creates a strain on the criminal justice system overall as criminals simply repeat the crimes they commit. 56% of violent felons are repeat offenders and 61% of all felons are repeat offenders, due in part to an antiquated prison education system (Seabrooks, 2008). As the statistics show, more that half of all violent felons; those that rape, steal, and murder are repeat offenders. This puts pressure on an already strained criminal justice system. I believe us, as a society can alter the effectiveness of the criminal justice system by properly training individuals while they are in jail. In many instances, these individuals repeat there offenses because they have no knowledge to obtain a decent paying job. As such, they elect to commit crimes as they have nothing else.
The statistics mentioned above shed an illuminating light on the faults of the criminal justice system (Hugo 1987). That is why education within…