The Rights Of Punishment

.. ting the prison population and keeping the SI members isolated, offenders are less likely to become hardened. When offenders are subjected to the long-term reality of prison, they can develop a rejection of society called prisonization. It is very difficult to re-integrate an offender after they have become hardened to the penal system. Segregation from the main prison population also means that offenders do not have as great of an opportunity to develop a network of criminals. Such sentences work by giving a new offender a startling view into penitentiary life without the effects of prisonization. Boot camps are similar to SIs in that member offenders are isolated from the rest of the population.

The difference is that boot camps require that members perform strenuous, difficult labor. Often, an offender who accepts a boot camp sentence receives a shorter term, but by accepting this term, they are agreeing to work. Boot camps are effective because they give inmates skills while receiving punishment. In his article, Boot Camps as a Viable Alternative, Jeffrey Collins says that these programs, assist offenders in developing self-esteem, self-discipline and a positive work ethic with value based principles (Collins, p.1) Self esteem and discipline along with a positive work ethic are tools an offender can directly apply to their lives outside of prison. The concept of value based principles suggests that boot camps attempt to enlighten offenders to what acceptable values are. Since these programs are involving the offender in a voluntary work environment, it is hoped that these values will be absorbed by the individual.

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Both of these programs outperform a standard prison sentence in terms of recidivism, but the effect is only marginal. When an offender leaves the supervision of these programs, they often revert to old habits. Success of these programs increases dramatically when coupled with services that support the reintegration of an offender back into the community. The parole system is one such program and is often under utilized by the judicial system. In her article, Federal probation and pretrial services – a cost- effective and successful community connection system, Loren Buddress claims that probation and pre-trial services can have a large impact on breaking the criminal cycle.

She states; The federal pre-trial services system offers a solution to the dilemma facing lawmakers and public officials. The system has years of proven, unique success with those it supervises; it achieves this success at one-tenth the cost of incarcerating an offender; it fulfills its mission to protect the public by effectively using correctional resources to reduce offender recidivism. (Buddress, p.5) Such programs are much less expensive than prisons and using them more often would provide an outlet to prison overcrowding while offering marked success in reducing recidivism. In addition, since these programs offer individual supervision, they provide the kind of social support that the authors of the C-Unit feel is so important. These types of programs address the symptoms of criminal behavior.

They are concerned with reducing prison population and changing the outward behavior of offenders. However, are such programs helpful in initiating a permanent and irreversible change in offenders? Dennis Wrong reminds us that conformism is a concept that occurs when values are shared. This means that if offenders honestly believe in the same values as the rest of the community, they will naturally conform to the acceptable behaviors of the community. Unfortunately, it is difficult to address directly an offenders value system. These programs, at best, confront the results of the value system. Wrong would say that these programs are forcing the offenders to conform without directly influencing the underlying values. Because their fundamental values are unchanged, a change in behavior would not be involuntary and natural.

Individuals do not readily accept this forced conformity. Compounding the problem is the status an offender is labeled with in the community. Employers are reluctant to hire them and their neighbors are usually suspicious of them. Their community is not freely accepting them back. The more abhorrent the criminal act leads to a stronger stigma attached to the offender.

Infact, in the case of crimes of extreme violence or those of a sexual nature, communities will strongly reject the reintegration of offenders. Wrong believes that it is this status issue that is pitting offenders against their respective communities. He says, the compulsive quest for status weakens community by pitting people against one another as competitors while at the same time encouraging frantic conformity to the shifting group fashions that set the terms on which status is granted (Wrong, p. 76). Individuals in communities are so driven by their need for status that it becomes pathological. The community itself becomes sick as individuals vie for a higher rank.

It is unfortunate that the weak suffer the most from this because others, trying to achieve, trample them. Criminal offenders usually enter this rat race near the bottom of the ladder. It is therefore of little surprise that an offender usually cannot compete against this strong drive for status. When conventional methods of obtaining status fail, an individual is likely to consider criminal or quick fix behaviors. In addition, Wrong is talking about how the standard to conform to is continually in flux.

Since true conformation occurs when individuals agree to an accepted set of underlying values and the standard to conform to is constantly changing, it is near impossible secure these standard values. Most individuals in a community are only conforming outwardly to the accepted standard because their underlying value system is much more stable than the dynamic view of status. Overall, this creates a difficult situation for an offender who is trying to re-connect with society. It is much like trying to merge on a super-highway, at eighty miles an hour, in rush hour, on a tricycle. Something usually gets crushed.

Just because a situation seems impossible does not mean a community is not responsible to make at least an attempt, which many programs do admirably. The State of New Jersey has implemented versions of these programs with a good degree of success. New Jersey uses a blend of programs in an attempt to maximize their benefits. Boot camps and SIs along with prison simulations such as Scared Straight, try to awaken would be offenders to the realities of prison. New Jerseys Criminal Disposition Commission has determined that these programs have a definite rehabilitative effect.

They claim, that it is critical for an offenders success that they are enrolled voluntarily for at least six months and they must take advantage of the treatment services offered. If an offender follows these steps, the program can act as a catalyst for pro-social change and the development of positive attitudes (Coyle, p.7). These programs can promote change in an offender. They do not claim to cause a change in the base values of an individual, but they can act as a catalyst for this change. They attempt to provide the environment to let an individual voluntarily evolve into an acceptable member of society.

The treatment services offered act as a road map for individuals to get back into a productive community role. They cannot change an individual on their own, but the hope is that if an offender is enrolled in these programs for long enough and if they have a willingness to participate in them, some lasting change should be made. The benefit of these programs alone is minimal, however. Once an offender leaves one of these custodial programs, New Jersey offers an intensive supervision program (ISP) that does have a strong correlation with reduction in recidivism rates. These ISP programs are of a greater degree of supervision than the standard parole and helps offenders acclimate back into community life.

One study showed a reduction in recidivism rate of 20% for offenders who have completed ISP programs. They state, ISPs had an indirect impact on recidivism through its direct impact on offender change, offering strong support for crime control through treatment (Fulton, p. 6). Here, the criminal cycle is broken through strong support on an individual basis. The focus of these programs is to guide an offender, on a case by case basis, back into the community. Though not a panacea for all cases, New Jersey has taken strong measures to integrate their criminal rehabilitation program with the needs of the community and the offender. Prisons are no longer just for punishment and containment.

It is critical for the health of a community that the penitentiary system focuses on the permanent rehabilitation of their offender population. By using a variety of the programs listed before, offenders are offered the chance to change and the possibility of leading a respectable life in their community. Unfortunately, the social system is not set up to make this change easy. It requires a lot of attention and support to guide an offender back to a straight lifestyle. The cost of supporting these programs is high, but not as high as the cost of incarcerating a criminal for similar crimes repeatedly. The end results of these programs are far more exciting than the results of pure incarceration.

By trying to rehabilitate an offender, a community is ingesting a remedy to the aches and pains of crimes while unknowingly strengthening the community as a whole. When offenders are rehabilitated, they contribute to the health of a community. They can set the example for future generations, through their experiences, of how crime does not pay. Bibliography Buddress, Loren A.N. Federal Probation and Pretrial Services- a cost-effective and successful community connections system. Federal Probation 61 (1 April 1997): 5-12. Chavaria, Fredrick R. Probation and Cognitive Skills.

Federal Probation 61 (1 June 1997): 57-60. Collins, Jeffrey G. Boot Camp is a Viable Alternative. Michigan Chronicle 28 March 1995: PG. Criminal Disposition Commission Alternatives to Incarceration Committee. Boot Camp Prison. Coyle, Edward.

New Jersey: SI Newhouse Center for Law and Justice, March 1990. Duncantell, Douglas. Wake Up Call. C-52514 B2-229, P.O. Box 7500 Crescent City, CA 95531.

Harley, Debra A. Vocational Rehabilitation Services for an Offender Population. Journal of Rehabilitation 62 (15 April 1996): 45-9. McKibben, Bill. TV, Freedom, and the Loss of Community.

Colombo, Cullen and Lisle, ed. Rereading America. Boston: Bedford Books, 1995: 712-23. Studt, Messinger and Wilson. C-Unit. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1968.

University of Cincinnati, Division of Criminal Justice. The State of ISP: Research and Policy Implications. Washington, DC: Administrative Office of the United States Courts, 1997. Wrong, Dennis. Skeptical Sociology. New York: Columbia University Publications, 1976: 71-80. Social Issues.


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