Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Essay on the Intended and the Unintended Consequences of Punishment
The Intended and Unintended Consequences of Punishment - a Criminal Justice System Essay
It is a fact that people behave differently depending on the consequences of his or her actions. Some behaviors are strengthened by their consequences while some behaviors are diminished by their consequences. Researchers believe that there is a strong relationship between punishment and certain types of behavior.
It is because of this reason that the punishment of crimes is part of the criminal justice system. Under the criminal justice system, punishment may range from the imposition of a fine, the imposition of imprisonment and even the imposition of the supreme penalty – death. One of the principles for imposing punishment as part of the criminal justice system is the Utilitarian Theory. According to the Utilitarians, imposing punishment to a convicted criminal offender is justified because of its utility. The idea is that imposing punishment against a criminal offender produces positive results which outweigh any negative effects imprisonment may have on the criminal offender. The Utilitarian theory somewhat looks forward and considers the consequences of imprisonment to the society.
Imprisonment is considered beneficial for the society because it deters the commission of more crimes by other persons. By adopting the policy of imprisonment, the state sends a strong message that its criminal justice system is tough on crime. Once a convicted prisoner is imprisoned it is as if we are saying to the rest of the society that this will happen to those who will violate our laws. Once society sees that the violation of a law will have serious consequences to the wrong-doers then this will have a positive effect of deterring criminality.
Society is also benefited from the imprisonment of the convicted prisoner because it incapacitates him from further committing crimes and reduces recidivism rate. When a person commits crime he is regarded as a danger to the society. Thus he needs to be separated from the society in order to prevent the possibility of him committing another crime.
Imprisonment also helps in the improvement and reformation of the convicted prisoner. The presumption is that a person who commits a crime is deemed to be socially ill. As such he needs to be cured and his behaviors need to be corrected. It is therefore important for these prisoners to be able to undergo rehabilitation while inside prison so that upon their release there will be changes in their behavior. This rehabilitation process may involve the giving of education and vocational training, or treatment for drug addiction.
Despite its beneficial purpose, over-reliance on punishment as a method of our criminal justice system however has several unintended negative effects. One of the criticisms against imprisonment is that its very nature emphasizes the separation of the individual from the external word. This has serious psychological effects on the inmates. 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. Prison according to them does not correct, reform or educate but is a means for violating human rights and human dignity.
Employability of those who have past criminal record is also considered an issue. 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. Imprisonment also results in the destruction of the family. When a parent is imprisoned, only one parent is left to attend to family needs. This makes it more difficult to the other to support the family. It bears stressing that two parents are hardly enough to provide for the needs of the family. Losing one will have disastrous effects for the family. In addition, human rights violation in terms of substandard facilities, such as the lack of proper ventilation, the unsanitary prison cells, overflowing toilets and pipes, the prisoners being forced to sleep on unclean floors, and incidences of rape against male or female inmate should also not be ignored.
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 reformed and rehabilitated citizens.
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