On any given day there are more than seven million Americans under the supervision of the correctional system which includes approximately 1.5 million offenders who are imprisoned in state and federal institutions, 2.4 million inmates incarcerated in jail, 4.2 million on probation and over 828,000 on parole according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. These statistics are staggering considering according to the U.S. Census the United States population is 307,006,550(U.S. Census 2010). So, that means that approximately for every one hundred people two are incarcerated. Also according to the Disaster Center in 2009 31,916,949 crimes were committed in the United States. The correction facilities that house the offenders have a daunting task of keeping society safe and that entails trying to keep the offenders from re-offending. Correction facilities have primarily four options or theories on how to obtain and complete this task. The four theories are deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation and restorative justice. In the early 1900’s rehabilitation had emerged as the primary theory of corrections and shaped every aspect of correctional policy and practice. Then in the 1960’s and 1970’s rehabilitation was attacked for not having evidentiary standing and in the resulting turmoil came about the other theories of deterrence, incapacitation and restorative justice. Rehabilitation though was unjustly thrown aside and said not to have evidentiary merit and yielded no results in reforming offenders so that they would not re-offend, but the opposite is true. Rehabilitation has been shown to help offenders to not re-offend where as the other theories have shown to have little to no effect on the reoccurring crime rate and some in fact have been shown to have the opposite effect in increasing the reoccurring crime rate.
One of the theories adopted was deterrence. Deterrence is the concept adopted by putting fear into people that the costs of the consequences imposed on them would be greater than the benefits of committing the crime. There are two types of people that deterrence is supposed to “scare straight” people who might think of committing a crime and those who have already committed a crime but might do it again. Deterrence can also be subdivided into two categories general deterrence and specific deterrence. General deterrence is where the offender is punished so that other people do not commit a crime. So the offender is being an example of so that others in society can see that crime does not pay. Some believe that this practice is not morally right because the offender is being punished in the hopes of stopping someone else from committing a crime that has not happened yet. Yet, on the other hand since general deterrence is general in nature it can be very efficient and cost effective ideally by punishing a small number of offenders a larger portion of possible offenders will be persuaded not to break the law. The other category of deterrence, specific deterrence, focuses on punishing the offender so that they will not re-offend. Ideally if specific deterrence were effective offenders would be less likely to re-offend if sentenced to prison then those given probation, if given longer prison sentences, or placed in programs with close supervision and the threat of their probation or parole being taking away. So the heart of the deterrence theory is the greater the certainty of punishment and the greater the severity of the punishment the less likely offenders will re-offend or a crime would occur. The issue is that research does not support the philosophy of the deterrence theory. Research suggests that the effects of deterrence are short term and decay over time. According to the article “The Effects of Community Sanctions and Incarceration on Recidivism” community-based programs that emphasize punishment or control have no overall impact on recidivism, offenders who receive more incarceration...
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