Should Criminals Be Punished With Lengthy Jail Terms Or Re-educated And Rehabilitated Using Community Service Programs For Instance, Before Being Reintroduced to Society?
Public opinion concerning criminals and punitive actions has always been one of the most disputable, arguable and ambiguous issues. At the time when some groups of people speak about the necessity of lengthy jail terms, the others believe in rehabilitation and effectiveness of treatment. In my opinion, if we want to achieve positive results, eradicate evil and prevent future crimes, incarceration should be viewed as a necessary and an inevitable punitive action.
In terms of this paper, we would like to discuss peculiarities of this problem and explain the necessity of punishment. In addition, we will study public opinion concerning this question. Finally, we will make an attempt to analyze probable consequences of punishment both for criminals, victims and the whole society in general.
For a long period of time it was considered that criminal incapacitation was one of the most effective methods of punishment. I also take this view and believe that only such methods of punishment can affect criminals and help to reduce level of recidivism.
When speaking about importance of punitive actions, it is necessary to give a definition of punishment. Thus, it is “the legal process whereby violators of criminal law are condemned and sanctioned in accordance with specified legal categories and procedures” (qtd. in “The Purpose of Criminal Punishment” 104).
The main aim of any criminal system is to create deterrence. Punishment and prevention of the future crimes can be achieved with the help of various methods, including lengthy jail terms and rehabilitation. Opinions concerning effectiveness of such methods are rather different. It is remarkable that various schools of criminology have absolutely different opinions regarding this question. Thus, in accordance with the Classical School of Criminology “punishment is used to create deterrence” (Larrabee). On the contrary, the Positive School of Criminology urges to use a method of rehabilitation, which can be rather helpful in reducing recidivism.
Today a lot of prominent theorists express doubts concerning effectiveness of punishment and consider rehabilitation as an alternative way of treating criminals. However, in my opinion, incarceration is the most effective and logical punitive action toward criminals. I suggest that punishment has a better instructive effect in comparison with rehabilitation. Fear of being punished may help to deter criminals from committing other crimes in the future. This is one of the most important functions of punishment.
I am convinced that only such negative experience as lengthy jail term can be rather helpful in changing attitudes of criminals to their actions and make them understand that they do not want such situation to be repeated once more. Although some theorists suggest that lengthy jail terms can create social disorientation and isolation and may provoke criminals to commit new crimes, I suggest that there are still many benefits, especially for our society.
When choosing an appropriate method of punitive action, it is crucial to take into account opinions of victims and their attitude towards justice. Numerous surveys confirm that the majority of American citizens believe in the power of incapacitation. Moreover, in a result of various researches it was found out that for the majority of victims knowledge about their offender’s incapacitation allows them to avoid unnecessary emotional stress. It is crucial for all people to know that their country can protect them. That is why it is considered that incarceration is an appropriate method of punishment.
In conclusion, it should be said that that punishment and rehabilitation are two major methods used in the justice system in order to control crime and deter criminals from breaking the law. In my point of view, punishment is the most effective method, because it has a lot of benefits both for the society and criminals. Thus, for instance, it allows people to feel that they are protected. In addition, incarceration might be helpful in changing psychology of criminals and their attitude to crime. All people are different, but in the majority of cases, if people know that they can be punished for something, they will not do it.
I believe that just and effective way of crime control lies in the opportunity to use such methods of punishment as incarceration and lengthy jail terms. Of course, sentence and supervision should be chosen according to the heaviness of crime and its consequences. Moreover, there are obvious types of crimes, when effectiveness of rehabilitation cannot be called in question. To such cases we can refer non violent crimes, like drug addiction. However, even in such cases, criminals should know that they will be punished and bear responsibility for their actions. Unfortunately, quite often practice shows that rehabilitation is viewed as a light penalty. That is why I suppose that until attitude of criminals and society changes, the most effective method of punishment will be incarceration.
As it can be seen, punishment plays crucial role in criminal justice system. Fear of being punished with a lengthy jail term can help to frighten criminals, deter them from committing new crimes and show other people that crime is disapproved and never goes unpunished. What is more important, society feels safe, when its members know that criminals bear responsibility for their acts.
“The Purpose of Criminal Punishment.” Ethics and the Criminal Justice System (2004): 103-126. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. < www.sagepub.com>.
Larrabee, A. K. “Punishement vs. Rehabilitation in the Criminal Justice System.” www.associatedcontent.com. Associatedcontent, November 2006, n. p. Web. 8 Apr. 2011.
Roggers, D. L. Structural Analysis of Treatment and Punishment Attitudes Toward Offenders. Diss. The Graduate School of the Ohio State University, 2004. Print.