Prisons and Punishment

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The cost of imprisoning an offender is high. With western regions like the US, UK and Australia experiencing consistent rising imprisonment rates and the limited availability of public resources, efficient use of prison and criminal justice resources is imperative (Marsh, Fox & Hedderman, 2009). A cost benefit analysis (CBA) of prisons essentially measures how effective and efficient certain criminal justice interventions are. Marsh et al. (2009, p. 146) states that this measurement is done by assessing an intervention where the aim is for the benefit of a certain intervention to outweigh the initial dollar cost put into it. CBA are favoured by economists and criminologists as multiple interventions can create duplicate results. This is why the cost benefit analysis is an effective tool as it can determine what the cheaper option is (which produces the same outcome). Sentencing of criminals aims to create three main benefits to both offenders and society. They include rehabilitation, deterrence and incapacitation effects. Of course, with different categories and variables in offenders, there are a range of factors that influence how cost effective specific punishments can be and whether certain punishments can produce the three sentencing effects previously mentioned. From here, it is appropriate to ask ourselves whether imprisonment is worth the cost and whether prisons produce the three sentencing benefits. For the purposes of this essay, the cost and benefits of prison sentences will be compared with community based sentences. The incapacitation effects of prisons will be discussed along with a brief overview of deterrent and rehabilitation effects of prison and community based sentences. It’s also appropriate to discover whether community sentences provide less or more value for money to certain types of offenders compared to incarceration. From having analysed such interventions and their outcomes, it’s also appropriate to make recommendations of how...
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