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Rehabilitation versus Punishment

28 Feb 2017Government and Law Essays

The success of rehabilitation versus punishment has long been a dispute in progress. Two of the responsibilities of the Justice System are to identify the types of crimes committed and to establish appropriate punishments for the crimes committed. The Justice System focuses on deterrence, incapacitation, punishment, and rehabilitation as goals. The evaluation of punishment and rehabilitation will display the success of the programs, the effect on the victims, the control of the offenders, the bearing on the community, and the financial influence on the public. This paper will reflect the various types of management used for those incarcerated and those under municipal guidance.

Deterrence of crime

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Deterrence is recognized as having two methods of discipline that are vital to the criminal justice system; general deterrence and special deterrence. The intention of general deterrence is to make the public aware of the penalty imposed by law if crimes are committed. The intention of special deterrence is to cause panic to lawbreakers in hopes that potential crimes will be prevented. Both methods are used as scare tactics since past strategies were thought to weaken convicts and instill justice within the community. The methods proved effective if the convicts were rendered helpless, but results had devastating effects on the convicts that lingered well after release. Although both the general deterrence and the special deterrence methods of punishment were widely used and believed to be beneficial, the U.S. Department of Justice reports that in 1994 a total of 272,111 convicts were released from prison in 15 states. By 1997, 67.5% of the same groups of convicts were again arrested for felonies or significant misdemeanors; 46.9% were again convicted, and 25.4% were convicted for a different offense (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2007).

Punishment

Due to a number of existing reasons, the punishment implemented for committing crimes has not been harsh enough to deter the percentages of illegal acts. Although punishment is enforced, the variety of opportunities made available to prisoners for early release creates a mere short-term solution for society. Convicts can receive early probation for good behavior, voluntarily participating in the educational and therapy programs made available, and attending church services. Even if convicted to serve a life sentence or placed on death row prisoners are given the chance to appeal. Because the death penalty can be a lengthy process the likelihood of convicts appealing has increased. Once taking these options into consideration, individuals contemplating crimes may think the risks are worthwhile (Hargreaves, 2009).

Rehabilitation

Rather than generating short-term solutions for society by applying criminal punishment, rehabilitation is used as an alternative. Perpetual crime prevention techniques are engendered through rehabilitation. With community supervision, rehabilitation can aid convicts by teaching them how to become a productive member of society. Through rehabilitation, an education and vocational training can instill everlasting knowledge that will enable convicts to become self reliant. Independence promotes confidence which is a steppingstone in becoming a respected individual within a community; subsequently refraining from perpetrating potential crimes (Banks, 2004).
Another type of rehabilitation for convicts is therapy. The primary purpose of therapy is to access the problems that some convicts may experience and provide the appropriate treatment. By reviewing the convicts personal history, physical condition, and mental condition, treatment such as psychotherapy, drug therapy, or a combination of both, can be administered. Understanding and treating the condition is the first step in the rehabilitation of how the convict thinks. Helping the convict discover and understand individual behavior patterns can aid in lessening the yearning or need to commit future criminal activities (2004, p.3).

Effect on victims and victims’ families

The effect on victims and the victim’s families can sometimes create feelings of insignificance. Since many laws cater to the defendant, the victim may feel discriminated against. The duty to enforce the defendant’s constitutional rights may dominate the victim’s rights. Defendants have the right to an immediate trail, the right to legal counsel, the right to meet and oppose witnesses, the right against self discrimination, and the right to accurate legal proceedings and complete righteousness (Rogers, 2006). What about the victim’s rights?

In the past, the rights of victim’s were perceived as less substantial compared to present day. Although victims should have been regarded as the key witness, often victims were considered an aggravation. In 2004, President Bush signed the Crime Victim’s Rights Act that was primarily developed to launch the rights of all victims of crime and all adolescent crimes. These rights are also meant to deliver specific modus operandi, institute particular responsibilities and exceptions, restrict convicts from obtaining revenue from certain events, prevent any unacceptable behavior toward victims, and take accountability for consequences and solutions. The actual rights that were created consists of the right to attend proceedings, the right to reimbursement of expenses, the right to be heard in issues effecting the victim and the family of the victim, the right to be notified of any data relevant to the victim, the right of protection, the right of receiving restitution for losses, the right to receive personal property being held, the right to a speedy trial, and the right to remedies of victims (National center for victims of crime, 2009).

Many victims and members of society believe that individuals convicted of crimes should be required to carry out sentences of punishment opposed to rehabilitation through community supervision. Actual punishment seems more justifiable when committing crimes, especially in regard to violent crimes. Completely ruling people out of society by incarceration without benefits of educational or vocational training is vital to the acknowledgement that criminal acts will not be rewarded but punished; also commonly referred to as just desserts. When convicts do not receive the proper ramifications the victims and families of victims are subject to distress and emotional strain. If the victims and victims’ families’ right to receive restitution is denied then the burden of finances can cause additional hardship (Banks, 2004).

Victims and victim’s families can also receive assistance though community supervision. If a convict is released on probation under stern regulation then monies received through employment are paid to the victims. Additional programs are available throughout various areas that aid in victim assistance. Such programs can offer emotional encouragement, comfort for the grieving, a better understanding of the courts course of actions, and referrals. Committees sponsored through these types of programs also perform outreach to promote awareness. The strategy to increase awareness and accept responsibility for actions is significant to deterring crime rates. The committee members speak directly to the defendants and initiate contact of the defendant with the victims and families of victims.

Effect on the offender

Upon conviction, criminals can undergo a variety of mixed emotions. Feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety are common when separated from family. The burden of incarceration on a family unit can be tremendous, being one of the primary reasons for divorce. The capacity of such adverse emotions and mental anguish caused by incarceration can result in feelings of abandonment, hostility, social ineptness, and the growth of recidivism. These issues do not automatically disappear once released from prison, but linger causing further life complications. Unable to socialize properly can have an ill effect on seeking gainful employment. Facing ridicule from the family and community can add to depression, feelings of isolation, and loss of support when dealing with challenges (Rogers, 2006).
If rehabilitation through community supervision is allowed, many concerns can be alleviated. By providing specific criminals a chance for probation in place of a lengthy incarceration, families can remain a unit. Under community supervision, guidance can be given to those requiring substantial employment which can be frustrating once a person is marked as a convict. Defendants falling under the category of committing nonviolent crimes, such as drug related crimes, would be foremost in the rehabilitation program instead of punishment. Criminals regarded as addicts would be more likely to benefit from a rehabilitation program rather than a serial killer.

Social impact on society

Both the acts of punishment and rehabilitation create a social influence that fluctuates. This is due to the rising cost of prisons, rehabilitation centers, the anxiety of convicts coming back into the community, readjustments to living environments, and family conflicts. How the community envisions the courts findings creates much impact within the legal system, political system, and other areas throughout the nation. The need for additional prisons has also been influenced by the punishment and rehabilitation controversies. If the method of punishment is not successful then there will be an increase in criminal activity proving the need for more prisons. If the method of rehabilitation is successful then there will be an increase in prison population that attends the training and therapy, also proving the need for more space. Encouragement from different viewpoints in regard to the enforcement of strategies within the criminal justice system remains an ongoing battle.

Fiscal impact on society

The punishment factor has a tremendous fiscal impact on our nation. Rehabilitation offers a systematic approach to help convicts reconstruct lives. Another purpose of this method is to prevent recidivism, which lowers the prison expenditures. According to a special report from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, “States spent $29.5 billion for prisons in 2001, about a $5.5 billion increase from 1996, after adjusting for inflation. In 2001, the cost of the prison system procedures exhausted 77% of the funds” (State prison expenditures, 2009).

Conclusion

In the justice system, the methods of rehabilitation and punishment are a vital part of the structure. Both types of strategies can be productive in governing crime if assimilated in an effective manner. Both methods should be based on the type of crimes committed, the history of the convict, and a complete psychological evaluation. By employing punishment along with community supervised rehabilitation the chances of deterring crime could positively increase. Perhaps the battle of punishment versus rehabilitation could be put to an end if officials were to confirm that this is a need for both strategies since different types of individuals commit different types of crimes.

References

  • Banks, Cyndi. (January 30, 2004). The purpose of criminal punishment. Ethics and the Criminal Justice System. Retrieved August 12, 2009, from http://www.sagepub.com/upm-data/5144_Banks_II_Proof_Chapter_5.pdf
  • Hargreaves, J. (2009, July). Contemporary comments. Current Issues in Criminal Justice, 21(1), 148-153. Retrieved August 15, 2009, from International Security & Counter Terrorism Reference Center database
  • National Center for Victims of Crime. (2009). Victim Law.
  • Rogers, H. (2006). Defendant’s rights, know your rights! Law offices of Hubert N. Rogers III.
  • U.S. Department of Justice. (August, 8, 2007). Criminal offenders statistics. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

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