The question of the effectiveness of incarceration as a convenient avenue of crime deterrent has been a major issue of discussion in the recent years. The core duty and goal of running a jail term is to correct behavior and to deter criminals from committing crimes in the future so as to avoid landing in jail again. However, this perspective has transformed over time and today prisons cannot be viewed as effective crime deterrent centers. This paper will analyze various reasons and arguments that show the inefficiency and the compromise of the role of prisons in deterring crimes among alleged criminals in the society. More focus will be based on the analysis of California prisons and their effectiveness in deterring crime.
We must admit the fact that our prisons have been turned into holiday inn with numerous leisure, educational and health programs being integrated in the prison. Am not in any way objecting that prisoners are not entitled to leisure, education and health care, however, the real objective of prisons is to portray an image of stern principles and punishments that should deter criminals from engaging in further crimes ever in their life. In as much as the welfare of the prisoners is covered, the essence of prisons should not be compromised so that even the public wish to join the prison and live an easy life where all the basic and secondary needs such as games and entertainment are guaranteed for criminal without much hustle.
Statistics from research conducted in American prisons indicate that the number of people being incarcerated in the U.S prisons is increasing with every passing day at an unprecedented rate. Analysts who deal with the regulation of crime rate have outlined that crime rate in United States have barely remained the same over the last fifteen years (Hardcore truth, 1). More over, the there is a rapid growth in the country’s prison population today which has been rated as the most rapid over the time since the establishment of prisons in the 19th century.
There are several arguments that are advanced to explain the high population rates in the American prisons. For instance, many people argue that the widespread abuse of drugs has led to enormous crack down on drug users in the country which has led to increase in the prison population around the country. Others claim that the sentenced law offenders are more likely to face jail terms in the prisons in the current world than they were sentenced in earlier days. More arguments have been advanced by various criminal officers and specialties in the criminal department to justify the increasing population of prison and the inefficiency of the prisons to deter crime which is their core duty and responsibility.
However, the truth of the matter is the fact that the above stated reasons are not behind the prison population rate and the inefficiency of prisons to deter crime as many people may object. The main reason and understanding behind this astonishing trend is due to the fact that incarceration of criminals no longer stands as an effective crime deterrent system. The original policies and set up of prisons to achieve this goal has been compromised by the many privileges that have been introduced in prisons such as commissary rights, conjugal visitations, weights, and prisoner use of computers. There are various arguments and reasons that are more evident in the American prisons that can help to explain this inefficiency. Over the years, prisons have undergone numerous transformations in their systems to make them a more friendly destination hence the compromise of its role.
Firstly, there was the change of the title for the officers who watch over the guards. Around 30 years ago, they were referred to as guards, a title which marched their role and the objective of prisons which is to guard and instill discipline in the prisoners. Today, this title has been rephrased to correctional officers, a title that portrays them as mere trainers to advices and look over the prisoners who should be serving the sentence and the punishment for their criminal acts. This is part of the reason why the population of prisons will continue to grow while the crime rate in the society remains flat.
Dating back to around 30 years, prisons were perceived to the most horrible environment in the society. The mention of prison scared away the citizens and those intending to commit crime had to think and weigh the consequence of their actions and their chances of survival should they land in prison. As such, the citizens were scared by the horrible conditions of the prisons and feared breaking the law of the land. This was such an appropriate image of prisons and believe it or not, it was such an appropriate way to deter crime in the society and this was proven by the prison population which was extremely low (Isiria, 1). This stern image of prisons slowly transformed to a friendlier environment covered with entertainment equipment and healthcare facilities that make it a paradise for the crime offenders in the society, as proved by the high rate of population in the prisons today. As opposed to the past years, today the average and the poor citizens perceive the prison as an option for leading their life; as a lazy man’s paradise which many long to be, and the ultimate effect is the total opposite of the role of prisons which is the failure to deter crime in the society (Hardcore truth, 1).
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One of the most significant elements that is quite instrumental in achieving the objective of deterring crime in the society through jail terms is the prevalence of ‘fear’ among the citizens. This element is more important than the outer meaning that many may perceive it to bear. One fact that the prison department must understand and acknowledge is the fact that the laws of the land are usually the most effective in safeguarding the lives and the freedom of the citizens when the consequences of breaking them are feared. The though of the strict consequences that one may face such as hard labor, torture poor feeding habits. The government has incorporated lenient policies and assertions based on rehabilitation grounds, a strategy that has only worsened the conditions and the rate of crime in the society as the citizens no longer fear the experience of serving a jail term as it used to be in the past.
Still on the element of fear, there is the fact that the consequences that are faced by the citizens who decide to commit crimes and fall in prisons will be feared only if stringent punishments are integrated in the prison strategies. People fear corporate punishment as they may live to suffer from the effects of punishments and that they will never enjoy their life as they may wish.
This approach of prisons has been transformed by the lenient and friendly policies and prison terms that have eroded the true value of fear in the prison department and hence the compromise of the prison objective of deterring crime in the society. The fact that there are a significant number of new crime offenders and prisoners and the increased cases of repeating crimes by some offenders who have completed their jail term is enough message to show that incarceration done today is way far from deterring crime in the society (Logan, 49). This can be attributed to the fat that today’s incarceration does not pose enough stringent punishments to the law offenders to achieve the objective of deterring crime hence the increasing population of prisons around the world.
Various law professors and criminology specialties have objected to the prevailing trends of the prisons that are deviating from their role of deterring crime in the society. For instance in California, politicians have been on major campaigns claiming that the prisons should initiate the old tradition and platform motto which advocates for the prisons to be ‘tough on crime.’ (Krohn, 162) The basis of their argument is the fact that locking up criminals is not the ultimate answer to law breaking and deterring crime in the society. They have realized that the rehabilitation approach that have taken over the stringent punishments in the American prisons do not work for most of the inmates.
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Instead, the prison population is increasing and so is the public expenditure on the various strategies and correctional procedures adopted by the prison system. They are now realizing that the over-reliance on the incarceration of criminal s is actually posing some negative effects on the crime deterrent process in the prisons.
The young generation in United States have been rendered vulnerable to crime since the image of the prisons have been compromised as a mere correctional facility where all the basic needs and leisure facilities are offered for free and that there is little or no fear of suffering from the intense pressure and corporate punishments that are no longer administered to the prisoners. An American professor known as David Cole was fast to note that, and I quote, “we commit offenders to such places precisely so we will not pay attention to them.” (Hardcore truth, 1). David was referring to the fact that the criminal justice system is usually fast to sentence law offenders to serve their jail terms but they do little to follow up on them to ensure that the prisons achieve the goal of making them accountable for their actions and hence deterring them from crime.
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There are numerous rights and privileges that today’s prisoners enjoy in their serving their terms in the prisons. These effects have consequently led to the ineffective incarceration so that there is no impact of imprisonment among the prisoners. It is time that the politicians and the activists in the society came to their senses and corrected this trend that is increasingly turning prisons into favorable residential places where the prisoners enjoy numerous rights and privileges, even to some level that the free citizens on whom crimes have been committed don’t get the chance to enjoy. Instead of punishing the crime offenders and instilling discipline that would deter them from crime, the prison system is busy initiating welfare programs and rehabilitation strategies so that the prison department goes in line with the humanitarian principles that are being advocated today all over the world.
The effectiveness of the prisons is entirely based on the ability of the prison officers and the guards to instill fear among the prisoners and the rest of the citizens so as to achieve the strict image of the prison. Until we bring back the element of fear back, them crime deterrent will remain to be a dream for the American prisons. The population of the prisons is bound to expand tremendously with the current situation of prisons. The crime rate on the other hand will increase since the worst that can happen to criminals is a jail sentence which is viewed as a form of refuge especially for the poor and the middle class citizens (Nathan 1). The only way that prisons can achieve the active role of deterring crime is by limiting the level of welfare facilities such as entertainment and commissary rights as well as the conjugal visitation to considerate levels so that citizens don’t perceive prisons as little ‘heavens.’ More so, we must bring fear back in the prison system by adopting back the stringent punishment that used to exist some 30 years ago.
In conclusion, the state and the public together have the responsibility of revolutionizing the prison system so that it may achieve its role of deterring crime and to control the increasing population levels in the prisons. The image of prisons needs to be transformed so that the mention of prison can be enough reason to stay away from crime. In as much as there is need to offer welfare facilities and education to criminals to enhance their skills and future life after prison, the ultimate goal of prisons which is crime deterrent should not be compromised; otherwise prisons will turn into avenues where poor citizens run to secure a better life than leading a miserable life on the outside in the name of freedom.
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