Free Custom «American Correctional Systems » Essay Paper

Free Custom «American Correctional Systems » Essay Paper


From earlier English models, prisons in America have undergone major changes. From the earlier corporal punishment with impunity has seen prison change to correctional and rehabilitation facilities. This paper will examine the historical development of correctional facilities in the US and their influences.

Evolvement of correctional facilities in the US

From the period Europeans settled through revolutionary war in America, there were no state prisons but jails that were operated by towns. These jails held mainly debtors and people awaiting trial or executions. Colonial punishments involved such cruel acts like cutting ears, banishment, hangings or public humiliation which were basically to inflict pain but not liberty. The first prison was constructed to punish dissidents and had nothing to do with humanitarian ideals. After independence, the leaders of the new America then sought ways of deprivation of liberty than physical punishment. The first prison was constructed in Philadelphia in 1970 called the reform Walnut street prison. This is where the debtors and petty offenders were confined.  A system of behavior modification was introduced in walnut street prison. Prisoners were then required to pay the trial costs and a fine to the state making them a profitable venture (Carlson, P.M. and Garret, J.S. 2008).  

In 680s, a quacker named Penn responded to harsh and humiliating punishments used in the colonies and focused in reforming them and offered colonists the Great law which abolished capital offences but when he died in 1718, the Great law was abolished. From the colonial period, the penitentiary model was introduced in Pennsylvania (by Penn) and New York (auburn) system. The two laws were also not universally accepted although popular. This was mainly due to differing economic and social conditions across different regions. This was followed by development of prisons in the south and west and the start of reformatory movement in Cincinnati in 1870. Later the medical model arose, then the community model and crime control (Carlson, P.M. and Garret, J.S. 2008).  

Penitentiary is defined as a correctional facility for those convicted of serious crimes. Thus penitentiary institutions are the facilities used for convicted felons. The penitentiary concept was first used in England and the Wales in the 18th century. It was intended to isolate prisoners from society. From England it spread to Europe and later throughout the world including the US (Jackson, N.).

Rationale behind the different models

Penitence model: this is basically to put the convicts in a situation where they can regret whatever wrong they did and be willing to atone for them. A physician Benjamin Rush and a signer of the declaration of independence advocated the penitentiary to replace capital and corporal punishment. Penitentiary rationale is to isolate prisoners from bad influences of society, productive labor, reform them and return to society renewed. Penitence model was developed in Pennsylvania e.g. the Walnut St. Jail and auburn prison. It was a cheaper model with shorter sentences and thus fewer guards (Carlson, P.M. and Garret, J.S. 2008).    

Reformatory model: an institution for young offenders emphasizing training, indeterminate sentences and parole. An increase in prisons and prisoners in 1800s resulted to a host of problems including oppressive penitentiary system. Focus was to change inmates. Features included indeterminate sentences which were fixed, offender classification on character and use of early release as incentive to reform. Cons: Public clamor for longer sentences (Carlson, P.M. and Garret, J.S. 2008)

Medical model: the model was developed between 1930s and 1960s. The model pots that criminal behavior is caused by social, psychological and biological deficiencies thus require medical treatment. Implementation includes medical strategies to traet and rehabilitates criminal offenders. Cons: Disillusionment with treatment (The history of America corrections).

Reintegration model: emphasizes maintainance of the offender’s ties to his/her family and community as a way to reform. It recognizes that most prisoners (95 percent) will eventually return to their family/community and thus links him/her to community corrections (United States Department of Justice).  

Community-based corrections: developed 1960s to 1970s. This is a model of corrections that positions CJS to re-integrate offender into community. Features include that prisons should be avoided, are artificial environment, prison frustrates crime free lifestyle and focus on offenders’ adjustment into society in probation and parole. Cons: Rising crime in the 1960s (The history of America corrections).

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Crime-control model: 1970s to 2000. It is less ambitious, less optimistic and less forgiving view of man and CJS to change him. Crime is better controlled by more incarceration and strict supervision. The above cons precipitated this model. Cons: decline of rehabilitation (The history of America corrections). Of the above models, the Reintegration model and crime control models are mainly used in the US correctional facilities today.



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