Role of Prisons in the Society I Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

role of prisons in the society. I have included the theories of deterrence, rehabilitation, retribution, incapacitation, non-interventionism and restoration to support my discussion along with their positive and negative aspects. In the conclusion, I have given my preferred theory of imprisonment as the most effective and important ones.

A prison can be defined as a protected and locked institution where juvenile and grown-up offenders are housed with punishments that vary from a year to life. Such facilities hold the objective of accomplishing the verdict that the courts impose on the offenders and also of protecting the community and civil society by taking measures to prevent escapes. These facilities are also liable to provide programs and services that are important for taking care of the convicted population under their custody (Sumter 2007).

The issue of imprisonment has constantly been an intense experience for every individual found guilty of committing offenses. Sometimes the prisons have better aspects and sometimes they are not as good as others. In few cases, they present a civilized ad respectable programming system and concern for welfare and comfort of the offenders. However, the setting up of the prison has presented segregation from relations and society and the dehumanization (a certain component of imprisonment) as the significant features of the institution. The necessity and appropriateness of imprisonment is a debatable issue. However, it is an undeniable fact that the situations due to which criminals and lawbreakers are incarcerated (put behind bars) and the conditions under which they go back to the society have an effect on all convicts and the social order (Mauer 2004). For understanding the nature of punishment in a better way, the foremost requirement is to consider and contemplate over the theories that are founded for justifying the infliction of punishment by the social order and its components. (Deterrence, rehabilitation, retribution, non-interventionism (radical) and restoration) (Banks 2004).

Deterrence is the kind of penalty in which crimes are prevented "through effective, efficient sanctions, usually ensuring that punishments are certain, clear, swiftly applied and severe but fair" (Macionis & Plummer 2008). It means that this penalty is so gross that the penalized criminal refrains from committing any wrong in the future. The strategies that support deterrence are established on the basis of early criminological theory which denotes the idea that the punishments which are adequately repugnant will hold back people from doing any wrong and breaking the law. The programs that are regulated under deterrence are the ones which have a basic objective of putting off the individual delinquent through the repulsive nature of the endorsement.

If seen from an individual point-of-view, specific deterrence is supported by the notion that the punishment will generate such a level of pain that will help in discouraging the offender from involving him/her in any potential criminality. Deterrence is the underlying principle meant for programs like "Scared Straight, chain gangs and shock probation" (MacKenzie 1996). These programs can be differentiated from others due to their main stress on the corrective nature of the punishment. These programs are not based on the principles of crime reduction by using self-control, regulation or confrontation. Day fines are another deterrence strategy that is designed to be reasonable "given the difference in the economic circumstances of the individual offenders thereby making this sanction more punitive than the tradition fines" (MacKenzie 1996). In United States, the use of fines is very common and these fines are used for a number of transgressions and criminal doings. According to the statistics, deterring practices have the potential to achieve greater acquiescence and may prove as really effective in the reduction of recidivism. Fines also guarantee the unnecessary spending in courts and hearings (MacKenzie 1996).

Rehabilitation is that kind of penalty that has an aim to make changes happen in the causes of crime; be they related to economy, private life, societal life etc. Rehabilitation is frequently associated with treatments and actions by the community collectively (Macionis & plummer 2008). It works on the assumption that "criminals have no or little control over their crimes, and that changes in people or the environment can be readily engineered" (Macionis & Plummer 2008). Thus, rehabilitation promotes the idea that the objective behind punishment must be the application of such kind of treatment and training to the wrongdoer that may make him capable and efficient enough to return to the community and function as a responsible, law-abiding citizen. The question is whether the particular programs and treatments under rehabilitating process work or not. It is unfortunate that most of the rehabilitation programs are not successful due to their ineffectiveness (Macionis & Plummer 2008). On the other hand, only a few offenders are effectively rehabilitated by reducing their criminal behavior.

The theory of restoration "seeks to return to things as they were" (Macionis & Plummer 2008) and not only brings back a sense of protection but also helps in the restoration of the lost possessions. The restorative justice has a purpose of resolving conflicts and differences, healing communal clashes and bringing things together. This theory reiterates the fact that if people are provided with the right opportunities, they can collaborate and cooperate to do the right. However, a greater dependence on such kind of justice "might lead to a situation in which those victims processed through restorative justice might come to believe or feel that the harm they have suffered is of less importance than "real crime" (Banks 2004). In short, restorative justice is a contemporary theory and according to a lot of people, it is deficient in theoretical support. However, delinquency and other minor wrongdoings are dealt with restorative justice at the domestic level.

Retribution refers to the act of balancing an offense through punishing the culprit. This kind of theory is supportive of the idea that the offender is deserved to get punishment for his/her wrongdoing. To cut a long story short, the rationale for retributive punishment supports the idea that it is the right of the society to punish the criminal and it is the right of the offender to get punishment. The argument given by retribution theorists encompasses the notion that "punishment is justified because it is deserved, and punishment therefore becomes a question of responsibility and accountability for acts that harm society" (Banks 2004). Thus, it is an easy thing to provide justification for the theory of retribution because by getting punishment, the wrongdoers pay their obligation to the social order.

Though, this theory is related to vengeance, it is less harmful as it provides justification for the criminal to be deserving of punishment. Usually, another objection that is raised regarding the theory of retribution is that it does not effectively define the quantity of punishment that the criminal must receive. Some people suggest that the punishments must be distributed in a proportionate manner meaning that the worst crimes must be penalized by giving worst punishments and accordingly. On the other hand, some suggest that the criminal must undergo the same extent of pain/harm that he/she caused.

The theory of incapacitation cannot be categorized as a penalty as it does not involve pain. It seeks to protect the society by preventing an individual from causing any further harm by putting the prisoner behind the bars or through capital punishment. The incapacitation theorists assume that if criminals are placed in custody for a long time period, such an action can protect the people/society from the chance of any future felony. However, at the same time, this suggests that the wrongdoers are given punishment on the basis of a prediction of the future. Thus, a question is raised by a number of people regarding the ethical implications of incapacitation as they consider it unethical to punish individuals for what they have not committed yet. Thus, the question that for how much time a person must be held behind the bars remains unanswered. On the other hand, some have suggested the use of selective incapacitation implying that it is alright to hold some offenders for longer time periods for the reason that they are more likely to commit crimes once out. However, the opponents of this theory claim that the human beings are not able to predict future accurately so using incapacitation is not a justifiable idea for the prevention of future harm.

On the other hand, when the advantages of incapacitation are examined, it becomes obvious that it helps in the reduction of crimes as the offenders are not given the opportunities to be out there and involve in committing crimes. It is simple that as long as a criminal is inside the bars, he/she will not be able to involve in wrongdoings. Nevertheless, incapacitation is also frequently linked with the considerable number of prisoners in the prisons. With more incapacitations, there is more and more increase in the populations inside prisons.

Therefore, it is advised by many that the authorities should employ selective incapacitation by identifying and incapacitating only those wrongdoers who are expected to commit most crimes in…

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