Debates continue to rise concerning the best way to reduce crime rates in America. Some of the methods that have been employed in crime punishment are argued to be in violation of human rights. However, some individuals and groups insist that they are effective in reforming the behavior of inmates. This paper will address punishment and rehabilitation as approaches used to reduce crime rates and which is more effective.
There are various forms of punishment in the U.S. correctional system. These include incarceration, solitary confinement, and the death penalty. Solitary confinement refers to the segregation of inmates as a form of punishment (Vasiliades, 2005). The segregation is normally carried out as a standard operating procedure and as a protective measure. This may arise from prison incidents. According to Gaines and Miller (2012), inmates that commit disciplinary violations and are a threat to the security of others and themselves are sent to solitary confinement. Thus, solitary confinement protects the prison staff and the general inmate population. Additionally, prison staffs argue that solitary confinement acts as a form of rehabilitation as it separates the inmate form negative influences (Gaines and miller, 2012).
Incarceration acts as a form of punishment and crime control (Hinton, 2010). Incarceration can be achieved through incapacitation, retribution, and deterrence. Incapacitation reduces the possibility of a person repeating the same crime (Carlsmith, Darley and Robinson, 2002). It involves minimum sentences for crimes or longer sentences for those individuals who have a higher chance of repeating the crime. Deterrence involves changing the costs and benefits of a situation so that a criminal activity becomes an unattractive option (Carlsmith, Darley, and Robinson, 2002). For example, fines, corporal punishment, and jail time are used to prevent an individual from doing a criminal activity. Retribution as a form of punishment is a negative response to a crime. Punishment can also be in the form of community service (Gaines and Miller, 2010). Community service acts as a form of compensation to the injured party or victim. This will involve activities such as cleaning up the highway or teaching disadvantaged kids. Such activities benefit the community.
According to Cole, Smith, and DeJong (2012), rehabilitation refers to the restoration or the changing of the behavior of an offender. Rehabilitation does not involve punishment. Some of the forms of rehabilitation include probation, drug treatment for drug dependent offenders and tackling mental health problems. Probation allows the offender to live in the public community but under supervision (Gaines and Miller, 2012). Combining probation with other forms of dispositions such as house arrests and electronic monitoring serves to reduce cost incurred by the government in incarceration. Rehabilitation also involves the use of counseling techniques (Crow 2001). Other forms of behavior interventions involve development of social skills, anger management, and development of cognitive skills.
Which is more Effective in Reducing Crime
Rehabilitation is a more effective way of reducing crime than punishment. In addition, it is more cost effective compared to incarceration. The number of prison inmates in most correctional facilities, in the U.S, has been increasing rapidly. Cost of maintaining and developing new prisons has increased, and this has constrained most of development in other critical areas. Cases of juvenile offenders are increasing, and this necessitates the need for more juvenile correctional facilities. Most of the juvenile offenders are likely to change their behavior when passed through various rehabilitation programs. The downside of punishment such as incarceration for most juvenile offenders is that they can be able to develop and enhance their criminal ways while incarcerated.
Forms of punishment such as solitary confinement may have detrimental effects on the inmate (Vasiliades, 2005). The extensive segregation of inmates in solitary confinements can cause problems in the inmate’s emotional and mental health. For example, lack of social contact increases an inmate’s violent tendencies. However, most of the correctional facilities argue that solitary confinement acts as a form of rehabilitation. According to Vasiliades (2005), loss of social contact affects coping skills largely, which further causes the prisoners to withdraw socially. In cases where such an inmate is freed to the public population, there is a higher chance that the public will be at risk.
Most of the law enforcement officials have realizing that the use of rehabilitation works. One of the most effective methods is through drug rehabilitation. According to Blue Naden and Sarat (2001), in any prison population an estimated 60 percent of the population has a drug problem. Failure to rehabilitate the inmates may result in drug abuse increase by the inmate when released. This may result to increased crime. Further, use of electronic monitoring helps in reducing prison populations, in addition to reducing crime rates.
Rehabilitation seems to have prospects in reducing crime in the United States. The only challenge is how to apply the rehabilitation programs since without proper follow-up individuals may revert to their old criminal ways. Each rehabilitative approach needs to address why criminals behave the way they behave in order to be effective. Failure to do this may result to waste in money and resources. Forms of punishment such as incarceration do not reduce the level of crimes as evidenced by the increase in the need to build more prisons to reduce overcrowding in the existing prisons. Rehabilitation provides a more humane and effective method of reducing crime rates and reducing overcrowding in prisons. The cost taxpayers incur taxpayers to sustain the correctional facilities will be reduced.
Blue, R., Naden, C. J., & Sarat, A. (2001). Punishment and rehabilitation. Philadelphia, PA:
Chelsea House Publishers.
Carlsmith, K., Darley, J., & Robinson, P. (2002). Why Do We Punish? Deterrence and Just
Deserts as Motives for Punishment. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 83(2), 284-299.
Cole, G., Smith, C., & DeJong, C. (2012). The American System of Criminal Justice (13 Ed.).
Belmont, CA: Cengage learning.
Crow, I. (2001). The treatment and rehabilitation of offenders. London: SAGE.
Gaines, L. K., & Miller, R. L. (2012). Criminal justice in action (7th Ed.). Belmont, CA:
Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Hinton, K. (2010). Incarceration in America. New York: Rosen Pub.
Vasiliades, E. (2005). Solitary Confinement and International Human
Rights: Why The U.S. Prison System Fails Global Standards. American university international law review, 21(2), 71-99.