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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Essay on the Rehabilitation Model in the Prison Systems - a Criminal Justice System Essay

Essay on the Rehabilitation Model in the Prison Systems

            A cursory look at the history of the United States criminal justice system, and perhaps even in the other parts of the world will reveal that there is a see-saw battle between two policies on the treatment of inmates and criminal offenders.  The first policy is that punitive model.  Under this policy, prison is a tool for serving the ends of justice in the sense that a corresponding penalty in imposed against inmates who have committed a crime.  The more severe and grave a crime, murder, rape, is according to the standards of the criminal justice system, the longer is the prison term of the inmate.  On the other hand, light penalty, such as short term imprisonment, is imposed against those who have committed light felonies such as misdemeanor. 
            They say that punitive model is an effective tool for incapacitating the offender and preventing recidivism. Research has shown that when inmates are released from prison   Two studies were conducted by the Bureau of Justice.  The first tracked 108,580 state prisoners who were released from prison in 11 States in 1983. The other study monitored 272,111 inmates who were released from prison in 15 States in 1994. The prisoners tracked in these studies represent two-thirds of all the prisoners released in the United States for that year. The result of the study showed that 67.5% of prisoners released in 1994 were rearrested within 3 years, an increase over the 62.5% found for those released in 1983 (“In a 15 State study, over two-thirds of released prisoners were rearrested within three years” 2002). 
            On the other hand, there are also those who consider that prison as a tool for the treatment, correction and rehabilitation of the inmate.  Under this policy, the law takes into account that inmates are socially sick individuals in whom the society is morally obliged to provide for their rehabilitation.   The objective under this policy is to correct, rehabilitate and treat wrongful behavior so that once the inmate is sent back to mainstream society he will no longer commit any crime. 
            According to William Raspberry (1988), in his article entitled “What is the Purpose of Prison” stated that the main reason why we have been changing our policy on imprisonment is because we lack consensus on the very purpose of prison.  He added that “at one point, we think of prisons as hospitals for the criminally sick. We hold offenders until they show signs of improvement, then treat them as outpatients (parole) and finally release them as cured.” (William Raspberry, 1988, p.2)
            This research paper operates on the presumption that the criminal justice system should not adopt an exclusive policy insofar as imprisonment is concerned.  It is worth noticing that in our criminal justice system, the law provides for the aggravating and mitigating circumstances.  Aggravating circumstances, such as previous conviction of another crime or the crime was committed for pecuniary gain, are circumstances that are taken into account by the judge that serves to increase the penalty of the crime.  Mitigating Circumstances such as, absence of history of prior criminal activity, or the act was committed under extreme duress, are situations that are taken into account that serve to reduce the penalty of the crime. 
            It is the contention of this research paper that adopting a policy of punishment does not necessarily mean that the policy of treatment, correction and rehabilitation will be abandoned and vice versa.  Indeed, there is no evidence that punitive model and the rehabilitation model cannot work together.  Thus, the purpose of this research paper is to propose several strategies by which the offender can be released to the mainstream society fully reformed and rehabilitated.  

Purpose of Prison
            The presence of aggravating and mitigating circumstances in our criminal justice system means that our laws take into consideration certain circumstances in the punishment of criminal offender.  It only means that our laws consider certain circumstances at the time of the commission of the crime that can be used to reduce the inmate’s penalty.  This is based on the principle that not all crimes are a result of a careful and deliberate planning.  There are times when the offender is compelled to do a crime against his will or his volition is reduced at the time of the commission of the crime.  Poverty, drug addiction, lack of parental guidance are factors that should be taken into account.  The criminal justice system always takes into consideration these factors in the imposition of penalty.
            If the law takes into account factors before the judgment, then it should also look into several factors after the inmate has been imprisoned.  If the inmate during the term of his sentence has manifested good behavior or he has shown tremendous improvement while he was in prison and the crime he committed was not heinous then the law for humanistic consideration should include him in its parole programs. 
            Thus, the purpose of prison is not merely as a mechanistic tool for imposing punishment.  The judge role should not merely be limited to the imposition of sentence.  Judges have ample discretion at the time of sentencing to take into account circumstances that can help mitigate the sentence of the inmate.  The judge should never shy away from his responsibility.  His job is not merely to determine the guilt of the accused but also to determine with the use of discretion that the law has bestowed upon him the circumstances that can be utilized to reduce his penalty.
            The purpose of prison is not merely to punish.  Researchers have shown that adopting a punitive-model for our prison system does not serve to improve or correct human behavior but rather it may even be detrimental to the inmates.  Philip G. Zimbardo, PhD, a Stanford University psychologist, conducted an experiment called the Stanford Prison Experiment which studied the effect of imprisonment on individuals.  According to the study, the psychologically healthy individuals may become sadistic or depressed when placed in a prison-like environment.   Also, research has also shown that placing inmates inside "supermax" prisons or those high-security units in which the prisoners spend as many as 23 hours per day in solitary confinement for years at a time, will expose them to high levels of anxiety and other negative emotions  (Etienne Benson, 2003, p.2).
            Some of the criticisms lodged against imprisonment is that its very nature emphasizes the separation of the individual from the external word which causes 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 (Jenny Krestev, Pathena Prokipidis, & Evan Sycamnias p. 2).  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.  (Robert F. Drinan p.3).
            Imprisonment also results in the destruction of the family (Ed Griffin p.2).  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 definitely be destructive for the family. 
Imprisonment of the father has adverse effects on the children.  When one of the parents is imprisoned this has an overwhelming effect on the development of the child.  In some cases, the child loses a role model which is very important during that crucial age.  Research has proven the imprisonment’s negative effect on the child.  It is stated that “The Child Welfare League of America identified common reactions of children separated from their parents, which included rejection, loss of identity, anger and guilt. In addition many children develop increased fear of emotional closeness and trusting that may lead to impaired interpersonal relationships as adults” (Margaret Mead, n.d.)

Current Prison Conditions
            Prison condition in the United States today is marked by violence, sexual abuse, overcrowding, and inhumane treatment.  This is not surprising considering that the present punitive model of our criminal justice system. In this system, prison officials imprison inmates for long periods of time not taking into account the capacity of our prison to handle the increasing number of inmates.  According to Jeffrey Smith (2005), a commission tasked to study the present prison condition in the US found that inmate population has quadrupled in the past two decades to more than 2 million. (p.2) 
            Common sense will tell us that if prisoners increase in number without a corresponding increase or expansion in prison facilities, there will be overcrowding.  When the space inside the prison walls is reduced, a number of problems will result such as violence, sexual abuse, and spread of diseases. 
            According to Smith (2002), in the 12 month period alone between 1999 and 2000, more than 34,000 assaults were committed by prisoners against other inmates and the umber of prisoner assaults against staff in that period was 27 percent higher than the previous 12 months. (p.3)
            Sexual abuse and rape was prevalent. According to the Department of Justice, in the 2004 alone, an estimated 8,210 allegations of sexual violence were reported by correctional authorities -- the equivalent of 3.2 allegations per 1,000 inmates and youths incarcerated in 2004 (“Almost 2100 sexual violence incidents took place in the nation’s correctional facilities during 2004”).
            Male rape is not only a common thing inside prisons, as for female prisoners, the enemy is not their fellow prisoners but much worse.  They are the male prison guards and correctional staff.  The problem of sexual abuse among women prisoners is much worse precisely because of their sheer number.  Research shows that the United States has earned the distinction of incarcerating the most number of prisoners.  Most of these prisoners are women and there number is increasing exponentially.  According to studies, since 1980, the number of women entering US prisons has risen by almost 400% roughly double the incarceration rate increase of males…According to current estimates, at least half of all female prisoners have experienced some form of sexual abuse prior to incarceration”  (“All Too Familiar: Sexual Abuse of Women in State Prisons”, 1996).

Rehabilitation model in Prison system
            Punitive model is an effective tool for crime fighting.  Inmates who have shown no sign of remorse or pity for the crime they have committed, or those inmates who committed crimes against a child or those who have repeatedly commit their crime over and over again should be imposed the punitive model.  Punitive model however should not be adopted to every inmate.  Classifications must be made so that rehabilitative model should be re-introduced to the system.  It must however be stressed herein that rehabilitative model should be a means to remove the punitive model as the former should only be used to inmates who have committed misdemeanors or those who have shown signs of good behavior during their stay in the prison. 
            There are many rehabilitation programs currently being implemented in prison.  One of them is probation and parole supervision.  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. Parolees can be re-incarcerated if they violate the conditions of their parole. 
            Research shows that in 2006, over 5 million adult men and women (4,237,000 were on probation and 498,200 were on parole) were under Federal, State and local probation or parole jurisdiction.  This represents.  It may appear that the probation and parole is being offered to a large number of inmates.  Numbers however lie.  It is worth noting herein that considering this number there is only 1.8% growth in the probation and parole population.  According to the US Department of Justice, the average is 2.2% since 1995.  If the average of growth is only 2.2% and for 2006 there was a significant reduction in the number of inmates who availed of probation and parole, this only means that majority of inmates in the United States are still languishing in jail despite the commission of petty crimes and offenses. 
            Parole and Probation programs however should be closely monitored by the probation and parole officers.  These officers have the responsibility of making recommendations whether probation and parole should be granted.  In this situation it is very important that close study must be made by them before they submit their recommendation.  Also, even after their recommendation they must develop a system by which they will be able to monitor the activities of these inmates.
            One of the cornerstones of the rehabilitation model is for the inmate to realize prison is not the end of his life. It should not be seen as a hopeless situation but rather is a temporary condition and that they will soon regain their freedom.  One of the programs that can be utilized to help in the rehabilitation of the inmate is the livelihood programs.  Thus, inmates are taught the skills necessary for carpentry, painting, and handicraft.  Livelihood programs inside prison are recognized and are designed to “offset the cost of incarceration” (Frederick W. Derrick, 2004, p.2).  It is even seen as an advantage for taxpayers since thru these programs the prison facilities can be improved without the help of money from taxpayers.  The most important reason, however, for the livelihood programs is for them to be exposed to useful activities while inside prison.  In addition, the money they may earn while inside the prison can be utilized to support the needs of the family. 
            It is however sad to say that the livelihood program is being criticized by some sectors of the society.  They say that because of the cheap labor costs majority of the manufacturing companies have shifted to prison labor as producers of their goods.  As a result, those people who make an honest living outside prisons are being left unemployed because they could not compete with the rates being offered to inmates. 
            It is suggested therefore that in the administration of livelihood programs the inmates must actually be able to learn different skills. One of these skills is to provide the inmates with computer skills which is an important skill that inmates can learn while in prison.  Giving them sufficient skills will expand their potentials for getting a job.  More skills will mean that they have greater chances of getting work which could also mean that they have lesser reason for committing crimes. 
            Socrates once said that one of the reasons why people do evil is because of ignorance.  Ignorance is therefore the enemy.  Perhaps, it is also because of ignorance or lack of a better option or choice that majority of the inmates have committed crime.  Thus, part of the rehabilitation model is to teach the inmates to read and write.  This program offers the advantage of making the inmates preoccupied and provides them with sufficient tools so that when they are finally released they have additional tools that they can use to compete in the labor market. 
            Counseling program is also one of the most important part of the rehabilitation model.  The movie “Hancock” described what happens during a counseling session.  Will Smith, who portrayed the character of John Hancock, joined the counseling session together with his fellow inmates.  Unlike one-to-one session with a psychologist, counseling sessions in prison are conducted by grouping inmates.  Every member of this group is encouraged to speak and to express his thoughts.  It may appear that this is senseless but for inmates learning to express their emotions and to release their anger will help them avoid engaging in violent behavior. 

            In our criminal justice system, punishment should not be the only goal of our criminal justice system.  Inmates should also be given the opportunity to become reformed and productive members of our society.  Jail is also a reformatory institution wherein they are given an opportunity to be reintegrated in the society.    The present prison rehabilitation programs in some states provide several means of reforming the individual such as its various livelihood program, series of bible study, counseling and education programs.  However, the efficiency of this reformatory program remains questionable.  This is mainly because until now we have not achieved a consensus on how we should approach the prison system.    I think it is time that we realize that we are all sinners.  One way or another we have committed a sin.  Perhaps the only difference between those in the outside and those in the inside of prison is that the latter got caught.  Getting caught and spending time in jail do not make them less human than we are. 

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