The American Correction System: Objectives and Principles Essay

Submitted By Meeka6
Words: 1427
Pages: 6

July 3, 2012
Dr. Glenda Shepherd

The American correction system has gone through an array of punitive options to deal with criminals. Many options, models, philosophies, and methods explored throughout history in the punishment of criminals have resulted in the emergence of four main principles: deterrence, incapacitation, reformation, and rehabilitation. These four principles all have different intents and affects. Some may work well and other may not, depending on the circumstance, sentencing intent, and the individual prisoner. The American correctional system has four primary objectives in punishment. The aim is to deter, incapacitate, reform, and rehabilitate. Deterrence is a clear identification of certain actions that will subject the actor to undeniable and inevitable punishment. Given this certainty, the actor will knowingly act on his impulse and commit the offense that will subject him to inescapable punishment or will the knowledge of the inescapable punishment deter him from committing the offense. The intent of deterrence is to identify, and assert the certainty of punishment in the hopes of instilling fear of punishment to prevent the impulse to commit the offense or repeat the offense. If the offender understands that a prescribed punishment is certain following commission of a given crime and avoids commission of the offense, then deterrence is successful. The second objective in the principles of punishment is incapacitation. When society deems the offender to be more harm to society than help, the offender is render powerless to cause further harm through lengthy imprisonment. As evidence during the Alcatraz era, known as the punitive era of 1934-1945, where society became repulse with criminals and declared offenders as unsalvageable persons. These declarations from the punitive era prompted the “out of sight, out of mind” movement to lock all criminals away and throw away the keys (Schmallerger, 2009, p. 470). The intent was to prevent the offender from causing further harm to society through lengthy or life sentences. The reasoning behind this movement is if the offender cannot return to society then he cannot cause further harm. If an offender completes his sentences and returns to society, he would be so elderly that the only occupying thoughts on his mind are finding suitable retirement homes. The third punitive objective of the correctional system is reform. Reformation aims at confining the offender for an indeterminate sentence to bring about changes and eliminate the impulse to commit the same or future offenses through programs and good behaviors. Reformation was the result of the 1876-1890 reformatory eras. The reformatory era primarily focused on reforming undisciplined juveniles. However, the objective took root in the prison system creating early release of prisoners with evidence of reform changes. Unfortunately, reformation was a failure with evidence of high recidivism. However, the failure of the reform principles gave birth to parole, indeterminate sentencing, technical training, and education, which started the new wave in prison reform (Schmallerger, 2009, p. 466-468). The last punitive objective in the American criminal correction system is rehabilitation. The principle of rehabilitation is to treat offenders with special programs or institutions to prevent recurrence and repeat of the offense. The intent of rehabilitation is to correct the offender of certain ailments, which will bring about a law-abiding individual for reintegration into society or help the offender to overcome problems to avoid future offenses (Foster, 2006, p. 67-68). If an offender were an alcoholic, the rehabilitative treatment for that offender would be alcoholic treatment institutions and programs. If the offender were mentally ill, then the rehabilitative treatment for that person would be the specific behavioral