The main focus of this research paper will be to discuss and analyze criminal justice problems that arise in rehabilitation programs within the penal system. The concept of rehabilitation programs will be discussed in length and the relevant statistics will be used to determine whether these programs reduce the rates of crime amongst criminals.
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The paper will also discuss whether rehabilitative programs reduce the rates of recidivism among prison offenders who have been released from prison. The discussion will highlight the various rehabilitation programs that are currently used to reform prisoners such as academic programs, religious programs and educational programs and it will also focus on whether these programs reduce the rate of recidivism.
Criminal justice programs around the world face various challenges, especially in rehabilitating the behavior of inmates within correctional facilities. The purpose of this research paper will be to assess the various issues that exist in rehabilitative programs and whether these programs reduce recidivism. Rehabilitation programs are used to correct and rehabilitate criminal offenders so that they can emerge as useful members of society once they complete their prison sentences (Clements et al., 2008).
Some of the rehabilitation programs that are commonly used to reform inmates include counseling, community-based programs, health and fitness programs, transcendental meditation, academic programs and religious programs. The research paper will discuss the effectiveness of each of these rehabilitation programs in reforming the criminal behavior of prisoners.
Perspectives of Rehabilitation Programs
Rehabilitative programs are usually based on the assumption that criminal behavior in most suspects is caused by some contributing factor such as a history of violence, psychological, physiological, emotional or mental disorders (Barkan & Bryjak, 2009).
Such an assumption does not refute that some criminals make their personal choices to break the law, but rather it argues that these personal choices are usually caused by certain factors which contribute to criminal behavior. Rehabilitation programs are therefore based on such perspectives where the various correctional programs are designed to deal with criminal enforcing behavior.
For example, counseling programs could focus on the behavior that led to the criminal offender committing the offense while educational programs could focus on how to change negative behavior to positive behavior. Correctional programs in prison facilities are therefore crucial in reducing the recurrence of criminal behavior as well as reducing recidivism among probationers and parolees (Barkan & Bryjak, 2009).
Rehabilitation programs that have focused on correcting the behavior of criminal offenders have in the past been effective in reducing recidivism as they are mostly focused on reforming criminal behavior and also eliminating the factors or circumstances that drive offenders to commit criminal acts.
Criminologists such as Martinson, who have conducted research on the effectiveness of rehabilitative programs; educational, community-based and transcendental programs, have noted that rehabilitative programs have a higher efficacy when they are oriented towards providing treatment to prison convicts so as to reduce recidivism.
Martinson in his research noted that both the educational and transcendental rehabilitative programs were designed to provide prisoners with life skills that they could use to manage their criminal causing behavior as well as equip them with technical skills that would improve the quality of their lives (Clements et al., 2008).
Rehabilitative programs that are focused on the principles of the effective intervention are able to target the known factors of recidivism thereby necessitating change and also enabling the incorporation of cognitive or behavioral treatments to reinforce the behavior of the criminal offender by eliminating criminal thinking patterns.
Criminal offenders under such programs will be able to experience reform once the facilitator of the plan identifies their criminal causing behavioral patterns after which positive thinking patterns that are meant to eliminate the causal factors will be incalculated in the cognitive patterns of the criminal. Such techniques are usually effective when used together with mental evaluation programs during the rehabilitation exercise (Clements et al., 2008).
The principles of effective intervention, when incorporated into rehabilitative programs, are able to take into account the various characteristics of offenders which would affect their response to rehabilitative treatments. These characteristics include their cognitive abilities, their thinking patterns and their behavioral attitudes to certain situations that might illicit a criminal reaction (provocation, attack, or revenge).
Programs that take into consideration these characteristics have a higher chance of reforming criminal behavior as they will focus on eliminating or eradicating criminal causing factors that might be present in these characteristics. Incorporating the principles of effective intervention into rehabilitative programs will, therefore, increase the effectiveness of rehabilitating criminals, thereby reducing the rate of recidivism (Clements et al., 2008).
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According to MacKenzie (2006), various rehabilitation programs such as vocational, academic, educational programs, community-based programs; moral recognition therapy and behavioral treatment programs have proved to be effective in reducing recidivism among released convicts. This has mostly been attributed to the fact that these programs focus on eradicating criminal behavior and also reforming criminals rather than reducing the level of criminal behavior in prisoners.
MacKenzie (2006) noted that these programs were effective in treating criminal offenders as they mostly focused on their behavior and the contributing factors that led to their criminal behavior. These rehabilitative programs also utilized the principles of effective intervention which include focusing treatment interventions on high-risk offenders, employing well-trained and sensitive staff and providing aftercare to offenders once they leave the rehabilitation program (Mackenzie, 2006).
Issues with Rehabilitation Programs
However, there have been problems with rehabilitative programs in the recent past, especially in the US, where majority of criminals behind bars are repeat offenders who have committed new criminal offenses on their release from prison. According to statistics released by the US Department of Justice in 2001, the number of prisoners who were rearrested after being released from prison amounted to 279,400 out of the 635,000 prisoners released from prison in the same year.
Prisoners that had the highest rearrest rates were robbers with a rate of 70%, burglars with a rate of 74% and car thieves with a rate of 78%. These figures illustrated that more than half of prisoners released from prison were more than likely to return to prison for a completely new offense or a violation of their probation/parole (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2002).
This increased rate of recidivism was mostly attributed to the fact that many correctional programs such as prison work duties and schedules were now focused on deterring criminal offenders through punishments, beatings and other severe forms of punitive actions rather than correcting or rehabilitating their criminal behavior.
Many criminologists and sociologists argued that such actions were less than likely to reduce the rates of recidivism as criminals would more than possible revert to their old behavior once they are released from prison. The rates of recidivism would, therefore, continue to be high if correctional programs were focused on punishing and deterring criminal behavior (Miceli, 2009).
Other issues that have plagued rehabilitation programs include the conflicting system goals and lack of resources which are vital in correcting criminal behavior within correctional facilities. Conflicting system goals occur when the rehabilitation programs have different objectives to those of the correctional facility.
This makes it challenging to develop and implement correctional programs that will lead to the reform and rehabilitation of prisoners within these facilities. For example, a correctional facility that had developed the goal of reducing crime through whatever means will have its systems goals in conflict with the goals of rehabilitation programs within the same facility (Miceli, 2009).
Conflicting system goals also make it challenging to determine what resources will be needed to design and develop rehabilitation programs in prisons. The resources that are usually required in operating these programs include financial funding, team facilitators, therapists, counselors and mental health experts to aide in the cognitive and behavioral aspects of criminal behavior. The lack of these resources might render the program ineffective in reforming the criminal behavior of prisoners, thereby failing to reduce the rate of recidivism.
There is also the issue of role confusion where various law enforcement officers responsible for correctional programs are unable to determine what activities they are responsible for in rehabilitation programs. Their role in maintaining order within the prison conflicts with their role in reforming prisoners if they are included rehabilitation programs (Miceli, 2009).
Rehabilitation strategies such as boot camps for criminals sentenced for life, electronic monitoring of probationers and parolees have made it difficult to reform prison convictees as these methods are mostly based on deterrence rather than reform. For example, the strategies used in boot camps are mostly focused on intensive incarceration where physical exercises, drills and ceremonies are used to instill discipline amongst criminals.
These activities are mostly directed towards deterring criminal behavior instead of identifying criminal causing behavior and eliminating it. With regards to the electronic monitoring of probationers and parolees, the effectiveness of this strategy in reducing the rates of recidivism amongst released prisoners has been low as they are more than likely to repeat their offenses once they have completed their parole (Saffran, 1995).
Studies Conducted on the Effectiveness of Rehabilitation Programs
According to studies conducted by Baumer and Mendelsohn in 1990 to determine the effectiveness of electronic monitoring on recidivism, the study showed that within the first year of release, 27 percent of the candidates that were in the program were rearrested. The results of the study together with those conducted by Erwin in 1990, demonstrated that the electronic monitoring of probationers did not decrease recidivism (Saffran, 1995).
Punitive justice is mostly the common theme in these programs as prisoners who experience recidivism are punished by being sent to solitary isolation or back to prison in the case of parolees who violate their parole. Considerable research conducted by criminologists such as Martinson, Cullen and Gendreau, Petersilia and Turner, has revealed that correctional programs that are deterrence-oriented rarely reduce the rates of recidivism in prisons and other correctional facilities within the penal system.
For example, Robert Martinson, in his 1975 study “Nothing Works” highlighted that very few rehabilitation programs reduced recidivism after evaluating over 231 studies conducted on the same topic. His view held that the number of prisoners released from prison was more than likely to be rearrested within the first year of their freedom (Miceli, 2009).
Cullen and Gendreau conducted a similar study to that of Martinson, where they tried to assess the effectiveness of correctional rehabilitation in reducing recidivism. Cullen and Gendreau (2000) highlighted that most correctional systems in use were focused on deterring criminal behavior rather than eliminating criminal behavior in prisoners.
Their analysis showed that punishment, suffering and degradation were used as deterrent techniques to prevent criminals from committing crimes. These techniques did not succeed in reforming prisoners as they only served to create punitive justice to prisoners convicted of criminal offenses. The researchers noted that correctional systems aimed towards rehabilitating and reforming prisoners were more suitable crime control approaches than the deterrent programs (Cullen & Gendreau, 2000).
Petersilia and Turner (1990) on their part analyzed the effectiveness of rehabilitation programs based on reform rather than deterrence in correcting the behavior of criminals. The results of their study revealed that community-based programs that were directed towards reducing drug use among probationers and parolees were effective in reducing drug abuse and recidivism amongst these people.
This high rate of effectiveness was mostly attributed to the low number of caseloads that the probation and parole officers had in community programs enabling them to closely supervise these parolees (Cullen & Gendreau, 2000).
Effectiveness of Rehabilitation Programs
As mentioned in the introductory part of the discussion, there are various rehabilitative programs that are used by correctional systems in the world to reform criminal offenders. One of these programs is community-based rehabilitation programs which are mostly focused on providing restorative justice by integrating the prisoners back into the society.
Examples of community-based programs include probation, community service and parole programs which are designed to integrate prisoners into the society. Community-based programs are designed to reduce the level of animosity, intolerance and resentment that exists between the various members of the society and the criminal offenders.
The effectiveness of these programs in reducing recidivism has mostly been positive where criminal offenders have successfully been integrated into the society. Community-based programs allow prisoners to act in the right way before the eyes of the whole community. They are generally seen as second chances for criminals as they enable them to commune with the entire society (Siegel, 2009).
Another program that is used in the rehabilitation of criminals is counseling where various prisoners meet with a counselor within the prison walls to talk about their emotions, feelings and behavior as well as the factors that led them to commit criminal offenses. Counseling is an essential rehabilitative program as it provides an opportunity to the relevant people to ascertain whether there are any mental or physical disabilities that led the criminal offender to commit a crime.
Many counseling sessions in rehabilitation programs address aspects such as anger management, drug abuse, crisis management and alcoholism. Counseling has a higher efficacy rate in reducing recidivism when compared to community-based programs as it deals with the treatment of criminal behavior (May et al., 2007).
Mental health evaluation and treatment programs are rehabilitative programs that are designed to achieve some emotional balance in the prisoner by reducing behavior that causes them to commit criminal offenses (Samaha, 2005). These programs are designed to balance the various reactions that an individual has to specific situations such as confrontations, violence and threats.
The mental health of prisoners is usually evaluated under this method to ensure that they are of a stable condition once they are released from prison. Mental health evaluation and treatment programs have proved to be useful tools in treating offenders that have mental disorders and psychological problems.
These programs allow the prisoner to undergo treatment, which will reduce any psychological tendencies to commit criminal behavior. These programs are the most commonly used in treating prisoners who have been declared insane by the court and have been sentenced to receive psychiatric treatment in mental facilities. Mental health evaluation and treatment programs have a higher efficacy rate of treating the psychological and mental aspects of an individual, which causes them to commit criminal acts (Samaha, 2005).
Health and fitness programs are other techniques that are used in rehabilitating criminals within the penal system. These programs provide physical fitness exercises to lower the stress levels of inmates as they complete their sentences in jail (Sung & Gideon, 2010).
The effectiveness of this technique in reducing recidivism has however not been determined as the amount of literature available on the subject has not provided any useful statistics that can point to whether this method is successful. Also, most physical fitness programs in prisons are mostly designed to keep prisoners busy and away from any disruptive behavior within the prison.
With regards to religious programs, the effectiveness of this type of rehabilitative program is similar to that of physical fitness as most religious programs incorporated within prison are usually focused on keeping the prisoners mentally happy.
Religious programs provide inmates with coping mechanisms and spiritual guidance, which enable them to deal with prison life. These programs also offer forums for prisoners where they can be able to forgive motivate and reconcile with their fellow inmates within the prison (O’Conner & Pallone, 2003).
The efficacy of these programs has also not been determined by criminologists given that most prisoners who practice religion in prison fail to do so once they are released. Religious programs are therefore seen as temporary measures that enable prisoners to find spiritual solace in either Christian religious programs or Qaran readings. The overall effectiveness of these programs will however be determined by the number of prisoners who have not recorded any repeat offenses on being released from prison.
Law Enforcement in Rehabilitation Programs
Law enforcement plays a vital role in rehabilitation and correctional programs that are aimed at rehabilitating prisoners and also reducing recidivism. The various law enforcement officers who are involved in rehabilitation and correctional programs include corrections or correctional officers, prison wardens and detention officers. Their primary role and responsibility are to ensure that prisoners have been supervised and their security has been guaranteed as they await court sentencing or as they carry out their jail terms.
They are also charged with maintaining order within the prison by enforcing disciplinary measures in the event there is a disturbance within the prison. Apart from these correctional officers, other law enforcement individuals and agencies that are involved in rehabilitation programs include state welfare officers, state medical officials, counselors and officials from the secretary of state as well as personnel from the state justice system (state prosecutor and attorneys) (Miceli, 2009).
Many of these officials donate their time towards prison rehabilitation programs where they educate prisoners on the importance of correcting their behavior so that they can be contributing members of the society. These law enforcement officials are able to participate in rehabilitation programs as they have the necessary mandate and authority to initiate prison reforms in the penal system.
They also have the necessary public machinery that can be used in rehabilitation programs as well as in reforming prisoners. Law enforcement agencies are therefore important in rehabilitation programs as long as they are focused on restorative justice rather than punitive justice (Miceli, 2009).
The impact of these law enforcers in rehabilitation programs, however, depends on role clarity and role conflict where correctional officers have a lesser impact on rehabilitation programs when compared to state officials and counselors as their roles as correctional officers conflict with their roles as rehabilitative officers.
The general demeanor of correctional officers is usually authoritative, harsh, strict and intolerant, which enables them to deal with prisoners. If these officers are therefore involved in rehabilitation programs, their primary role within the prison system will be in conflict with their role in rehabilitative programs.
While they are seen to be important in helping prisoners reform, correctional officers and other law enforcers working within the penal system and who are involved in rehabilitation programs contribute to the increasing rates of recidivism among criminal offenders in correctional facilities when they fail to reconcile their roles in rehabilitative programs (Miceli, 2009).
Criminal Law Procedures in Rehabilitation Programs
With regards to criminal and law procedures, there are various provisions that allow the justice system to design sentences and convictions that are meant to rehabilitate and correct the behavior of criminals.
Court sentences given to offenders usually incorporate aspects of community service and victim restitution so as to rehabilitate and reform the prisoner once they begin their prison sentence. These sentences are usually handed out to criminals convicted of committing an offense against their society or community. For example, a thief convicted of stealing a mobile phone from a member of the society could have his sentence reduced to a prescribed number of hours in community service to pay for his crime (Siegel, 2009).
The community service would involve cleaning the house of the victim, cleaning the victim’s neighborhood and also talking in school groups about the dangers of stealing.
While community service programs operated under the prison rehabilitation program are usually effective, court-ordered community service programs usually serve as punitive rather than restorative justice. Criminals who are forced to participate in community service programs are less than likely to reform when compared to criminals who voluntarily participate in such programs (Siegel, 2009).
With regards to counseling as a rehabilitation program, some law procedures include court-ordered counseling as part of the sentence, especially in the rehabilitation of criminals who are either psychologically or emotionally disturbed. For example, in the case of Hicks v. Felock, part of the sentence for the defendant involved court-ordered counseling as they had engaged in domestic violence while under the influence of drugs.
Such criminal acts, according to the court were deemed to stem from emotional and psychological disturbances in the defendant (Finn, 1994). Counseling sessions are usually designed to get to the root of criminal behavior and also to determine how this behavior can be rectified. Counseling, when used with mental health evaluation and treatment, has been effective in reducing recidivism among prisoners who have been released from prison.
In terms of mental health evaluation programs, criminal court procedures for some cases usually advocate for criminals who have psychological and mental problems to undergo mental health evaluation in psychiatric facilities and mental wards. This evaluation is essential in diagnosing the specific mental capacity of the prisoner as well as determining whether they have mental health problems which caused them to commit the offense in the first place (Samaha, 2005).
The Mental Health Procedures Act which is used in many mentally disturbed criminal cases stipulates that a person might be subjected to mental health examination and treatment if as a result of their mental disability they are unable to exercise self-control, judgment and discretion in their personal affairs. This act has been used in the past for cases that involved the mental evaluation of defendants in cases such as Ford v. Wainwright, Wiggins v. Smith and Kansas v. Hendricks (Cochran et al., 2005).
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