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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Essay on Punishment - Method of Regulating Behavior

The society has different strategies in order to control human behavior.  One of the most common strategies to regulate human behavior is to impose punishment for the commission of a crime.  Punishment is manifested when an offender who is adjudged to have been guilty in committing a crime is placed behind bars.  Under the criminal justice system, punishment may also involve the payment of a fine or rendering of community service or in some states the imposition of capital punishment which is the death penalty. 

One of the principles for imposing punishment as part of the criminal justice system is that placing an offender behind bars incapacitates him from committing another crime (William Raspberry, p.1).  It also protects the innocent members of the society should the offender decide to commit another crime.  It should be given emphasis that an individual who has committed a crime is a danger to the society and that the other members of the society should be protected from him.  It also deters the other would-be criminal offenders based on the principle that once the other would-be offenders realize that the state is serious in punishing crimes they will de discouraged from committing crime.  Punishment also gives emphasis on solitary confinement.  Its purpose is to encourage the offender to think about his past actions and to realize his mistakes.  It encourages the offender to reform while he is in prison. 

While punishment can be effective in regulating human behavior, the criminal justice system should act with caution in over-relying on punishment as a strategy to regulate behavior.  One of the criticisms against placing an individual behind bars is that it separates the offender from his family, friend and the society.  While this protects the other members of the society, this strategy has serious psychological effects on the inmates (Krestev el al, 2003, p.1).  Studies show that imprisonment leads to stress, delusion and dissatisfaction of being separated from his family, friends and peers, claustrophobia and feelings of fear and panic.  The thick walls, barbed wires, constant monitoring and surveillance make the situation even worse.  This system does not fit well with the ‘reformation’ that the institution proudly advocates.  In fact, it actually does more harm than good for the individual. 

Moreover, a person who has a past criminal record loses his marketability.  Past history of incarceration creates a stigma on the inmate making prospective employers hesitant in accepting them as employees.  This affects their capacity to be hired and be employed making their reintegration in the society very difficult.  The over-reliance on punishment has also led to the overpopulation in the prisons in the United States (Jeffrey Smith, 2005, p.1).  California has one of the most overpopulated prisons because of its heavy emphasis on punishment.  It even passed a law imposing longer prison sentences to those who have committed a crime three times. 

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The state should also look into the possibility of using alternative strategies for purpose of regulating human behavior.  Probation and parole could be an effective alternative.  Probation is the rehabilitative model which allows offenders to be placed on community supervision as a substitute for incarceration.  Parole on the other hand, is a system where inmates are conditionally released to community supervision after serving a prison term. Inmates should not be allowed to rot behind bars.  The state should classify the nature of the crimes and determine which of these crimes can be allowed to be under the probation and parole.  It utilizes the human capital and recognizes that human capital should not be wasted.  Presently, however, the probation and parole is not being effectively utilized. 

The Punishment model has been part of the criminal justice system since time immemorial.  It has helped in preventing recidivism among inmates and has helped in the prevention of crimes.  It should not however be adopted as a sole model of our criminal justice system.  Considering the potential destructive effects of punishment model, it is suggested that the prison officials should not exclusively rely on this model but should also take into account other methods by which individuals who have no previous criminal record and those who have committed minor infractions of the law can be entitled to probation or parole or other means by which the inmate can be allowed to serve his sentence outside of the prison institution.  The same will not only reduce our prison population but will also give the inmate second chance at being truly reformed and rehabilitated citizens.  

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