U. S. Correctional System: Punishment vs. Rehabilitation Jackie Glenn Introduction to the Criminal Justice System Professor James Guffey October 25, 2011 U. S. Correctional System: Punishment vs. Rehabilitation For the last 200 years we as a nation have tried to figure out a way to deter, rehabilitate and house prisoners without overcrowding the prison system. The American Justice System has utilized many different prison models, as was displayed among various countries around the world pertaining to prison reform and prisoner rehabilitation.
One of the first models used was The Walnut Street Jail in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which was converted into Pennsylvania Penitentiary in 1790. The system which was transpired in the Pennsylvania Penitentiary was known as the Pennsylvania System, which included solitary confinement 23 hours a day, prisoners were allowed to exercise in an area provided off of their cells, inmates were not allowed to congregate and the system encouraged rehabilitation; therefore, putting an end to corporal punishment. Many other vast prison eras occurred throughout history.
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One of which was the Industrial Era (1890-1935), which seemed to work out sufficient enough for the offenders and those who profited from it. In the northern division of the United States prisoners smelted steel, manufactured cabinets, molded tires, and crafted many other goods for the open market. Prisons in the South, was devastated by the Civil War, and they used inmates to replace slaves who had been freed during the war. The industrial era ended due to The Ashurst-Sumners Act of 1935, which specifically prohibited the interstate transportation and sale of prison goods where state laws forbade them. Schmalleger, 2011) Substantially this was enacted at the same time as the Great Depression; therefore putting an even greater damper on an already unstable society. The U. S. correction system has three main goals: punish, protect the population and rehabilitate the offender. The most obvious goal of the correctional system is to punish those who are found guilty of a crime. This method is used to deter one from repeating criminal activity. Incarceration is the most common example of punishment in the correctional system, but the death penalty and lesser penalties such as probation are also designed to be punitive. ehow. com, 2011) In addition to punishing a criminal, the correctional system is supposed to protect them as well from cruel and unusual punishment. By keeping criminals in prison, they are not among the public and are not in a position in which they could harm the public at large with additional criminal acts. The correctional system is also supposed to rehabilitate inmates. Rehabilitation, if done well, will make the criminal function in normal society after release. This may include vocational training, counseling and drug rehabilitation treatment.
Rehabilitation is intended to shift the criminal from being a cost to society to being a contributing member of society. (ehow. com, 2011) A question often pondered around the world, Is our Criminal Justice System actively seeking ways to rehabilitate offenders, or are they more concerned about incarcerating them? We hang in the balance with this issue, wondering if this style of punishment is really resolving our problem or merely perpetuating it. More often than not we wonder will we find a remedy to increase the extent of rehabilitation among prisoners.
Some say this is a problem of politics having an opinion by means of running the penal system, while others express it as more so a problem with the Criminal Justice System overall. Upon returning back into society the offender is bombarded by many different obstacles. Beginning with going home, most offenders often wonder upon leaving the correctional facility about their future. Where will I go? What shall I do? Sometimes their family has shunned them for their criminal behavior, and they have nowhere to turn. Secondly, society shuns them as well, for their criminal background.
It is extremely hard for a convicted offender to find gainful employment on their own, often this leads them right back to the correctional facility as a violation of parole/probation. Just as soldiers during wartime that have trouble readjusting to civilian life after the traumatizing effects of being at war; it is very hard for the convict to enter back into society as well. Post-traumatic stress syndrome is also known to be a common diagnosis of post institutionalized convicts. How does placing a person in this type of life style rehabilitate them to become productive citizens in American society? ehow. com, 2011) Once a crime has been committed, society begins putting pressure on the justice system. This pressure often leads to the apprehension of the wrong person, thus making the justice system appear to be faulty; consequently, leaving the bad guy on the streets to commit more crime. Society wants answers, they want to know: who, why, and how long are they going to pay for the crime, so to speak. I believe society should pressure the justice system to an extent, simply because no one wants a criminal lurking around their neighborhood or around their family.
There have often been disputes encompassing whether or not an offender can be rehabilitated. Therefore, leaving many vulnerable to the idea that incarceration is the only rehabilitation most offenders need. Rehabilitation and incarceration go hand in hand; however, the two are very different. Rehabilitation strives to educate the individual about the mistakes that they performed and assists him/her in gaining knowledge of how to transform his/her actions, known as behavioral treatment.
Whereas incarceration, being much different, confines a criminal in a system where the criminal would have to take the initiative to seek the help about changing his behavior; therefore, making it that more difficult for the actuality of being rehabilitated. Resources are voluntarily accessible to aid those offenders who aggressively seek the help in pursuing behavioral changes. This being one common mistake in our justice system, it shouldn’t be voluntary for offenders to pursue these changes in their own behavior. More often than not, most persons displaying some sort of behavioral problem often don’t realize they have a problem.
Sometimes behavioral problems can be masked by addiction, whether it is drugs or alcohol. It is easier to believe that one is high or intoxicated, rather than actually needing medical attention for their behavior problems. In conclusion it is my personal belief, that there should be a law set in action that works for the offender. Of course the offender is wrong for committing a crime, but we as a correctional system want the ultimate goal of rehabilitating offenders; furthermore, creating a mandatory rehabilitation counselor that the offenders have to see daily, maybe a class-like setting.
To serve the crucial purpose of rehabilitating the offender, whether he knows it or not he will be learning how to live and maintain rehabilitation outside of the prison walls. In addition to the first idea, it should be mandatory that every criminal leaving the correctional facility be sent to a halfway house. The purpose being that halfway houses gets the offender in the community and helps them find gainful employment, but I want these halfway houses to take this a step further. I want the halfway house to setup employment, once their employed house them until they assist them with finding somewhere to live on their own.
So many times when an offender leaves the prison, they are almost destined to come right back. It isn’t solely their fault; it is our fault as well for throwing into society with no guidance. References Carver, N. (year). Do U. S. prisons really rehabilitate criminals? Helium, Inc. Author. (n. d). Role of the Correctional System. Retrieved on,18 Oct. 2011. Retrieved from http://www. ehow. com/about_5087269_role-correctional-system. html#ixzz1bC3164r3 Schmalleger, F. (2011). Criminal justice today (11th ed. ). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.