Since punishment is one of the basic elements of the criminal justice system, all criminal justice actors including probation officers are deeply influenced by theories that justify criminal punishment. To be sure, for probation officers, two of the more common considered theories of punishment are incapacitation and rehabilitation. Incapacitation refers to the idea that an offender should be imprisoned or otherwise restrained in order to limit their opportunities to commit a crime (LaFave, 2000). Rehabilitation, on the other hand, refer to the theory that offenders should be provided the opportunity to reform and change themselves into a law-abiding system (LaFave, 2000). As probation officers are more involved in either facilitating the transition of an offender from imprisonment to freedom or helping an offender from having a more serious punishment imposed on them, their natural tendency should to stress rehabilitation initially until it is apparent that incapacitation is necessary. In other words, probation officers should give offenders as much chance to succeed, or fail, as possible before deciding on incapacitation.
In the case of Mr. Ron Howard, Howard was arrested, charged and convicted of credit card fraud. As a member of Kinko’s staff, Howard used the credit card number that he obtained from a customer, to buy a number of items online totaling U.S. $15,000. Howard’s sentence was three years of probation. While Howard has a criminal history, its involves generally minor incidents including a juvenile assault charge and a pending DUI. Nevertheless, Howard’s lifestyle and social arrangement suggest that if he does not take command of his life, he most likely will become increasingly susceptible to a life of crime such as the credit card charge he is currently serving a sentence to complete. For instance, he has no stable employment and when he does seem to find work, he never seems to be able to stay in the position for long. One of the reasons for this is that he is a single parent, living on his own. In addition, while he seems to be fairly well-adjusted socially, he seems to have issues with drinking, as most recently illustrated by his DUI charge; as well as anger management issues which have been present since he was a child. In addition, he has been diagnosed with ADHD which he is currently not taking medication for. Fortunately, he seems to have a positive and firm social network comprised of his mother and father, who live nearby; his friend, who is an assistant manager at a local McDonald’s; and his young child. He also has his own housing.
As mentioned, Howard is at cross-roads in his life, one that can lead to a lifetime of petty crime and another that can lead to a normal life. Accordingly, the recommendation for Howard would first and foremost include some form of counseling, despite his opposition. The counselling, which can be provided by a probation officer, a social worker or both, would not necessarily be focused on solving any of Howard’s problems but rather on checking in with him to see if he is continuing to make the right decisions that lead away from getting involved in criminal acts. For instance, counseling can be used as a forum of Howard to “vent” his frustrations at work so that he could avoid such situations as work. Counselling would be conditioned on how well he is adjusting. For example, in the beginning there might be a need for counseling three times a week, however, if he follows the terms of probation, then counselling session could decrease accordingly. Additionally, as a result of the DUI, he will most likely have to perform some type of alcohol treatment. Accordingly, probation would also include the successful completion of that program, as well as, maintain taking his medications for ADHD. Howard, should also be required to find work or, at least, make an effort to find work. As for his concerns with his child, it would be recommended that he put his child under the care of his parents while he is at work. If Howard were able to follow these guidelines or achieve these goals. He would have a much better chance to never need to commit a crime again.
LaFave, W.R. (2000). Criminal Law, 3rd ed. St. Paul, MN: West Group.