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The Effects of the American Correctional Policy Analytical Essay

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Updated: Jan 27th, 2020

Evidence-Based Correction: Definition and Significance

Before going any further, it is necessary to introduce the phenomenon of evidence-based correction. Evidence-based correction is defined as a system in which “data, not mere opinions […] play the central role in guiding allegiance to any given correctional theory” (MacKenzie, 2012, p. 1).

In a nutshell, the phenomenon of evidence-based correction can be nailed down as the legal system in which evidence plays the pivoting role in not only determining the amount of punishment, but also checking whether the criminal is paying his/her debt to the society.

Opposed to the traditional system of penalties, the given system presupposes certain element of redemption at best and paying the debt to society at the very least: “the treatment of criminals by society is for the protection of society” (Wines, 1871, p. 541).

The significance of evidence-based correction appears to be quite high.

The idea that the effects of traditional strategies and everyday correction procedures can be enhanced and increased several times is truly astounding; however, with the help of evidence-based corrections, the given effect is attainable.

Since social scientific techniques are utilized in the course of an evidence-based correction in order to study and improve correction procedures, considerable improvement of correctional methodology can be expected, which means that the quality and efficacy of the procedures will increase in geometrical progression.

The fact that the available resources are utilized fully in the process is also important. Because of the fast pace of correctional procedures, in most cases, the potential of most of the resources remains unlocked.

With the application of evidence-based corrections, however, one will be able to use the existing resources fully, wherein the significance of evidence-based correction lies. In addition, the given approach helps define further avenues of addressing the problem in question.

Justice Model for Correction: The Time Personal Change Has Come

A justice model for correction is a specific method that is aimed at turning the criminal into a regular member of society. Though often being referred to as a wholesome concept, a justice model is represented by its numerous modifications.

First, there is the rehabilitation model, which presupposes that each criminal is supposed to undergo a process of personal change and is only viable in case the crime was committed under specific circumstances, and in no case involved the freedom of choice between the right and the wrong action:

When the rights given to criminals are seen as a major obstacle in the state’s quest to guard the lives and material possessions of the public, conservatives have maintained a more fundamental reason as to why […] criminals should be rehabilitated and not punished. (Cullen, & Gilbert, 1982, pp. 95–96)

The efficacy of the given model can be argued.

Although the tradition of persuading people to lead the lives of law-abiding citizens did appear to be efficient at the time that it was used, keeping people away from crossing the law by appealing to their fear cannot be considered the best way to convince them to follow the letter of the law, even though the “links between sanction risk perceptions and behavior” (Nagin, 1998, p. 5) are obvious.

On the one hand, the model brought quite fruitful results; on the other hand, “prisons do increase recidivism” (Gendreau, & Goggin, 2000, p. 308).

Therefore, it can be assumed that prisons have a certain deterrent effect, yet recycling this effect to shape people’s behavior and reduce crime rates seems unreasonable.

Empirical Evidence of Deterrent Theory: Proving the Point

In contrast to the rehabilitation theory, the theory of deterrence is based solely on people’s fear of getting punished.

A similar approach was used by colonists in the XVIII century: “For those who failed to be discouraged by corporal punishment, the colonists displayed no reluctance to resort to surer means to deal with these sinful creatures […]” (Cullen & Gilbert, 1982, p. 47).

An alternative to the rehabilitation method, it should also be given a proper mentioning as rather efficient method, which has quite short shelf life, though. As it has been stressed above, the idea of punishment following a crime serves as a powerful mans to keep people away from wrongdoing.

The way in which deterrence theory works, though, raises a few questions, To start with, the mechanisms of the given method are quite obscure; it is hard to figure out whether people are afraid of the imprisonment following the crime

Incapacitation Effects of Prison: The Circle Has Closed

As it has been stressed, ideally, justice system must be based on the legal principles that allow for not only punishing a criminal, but also helping the latter mend his ways.

However, prisons do not always work this way. Such “correctional quackery” (Latessa, Cullen, & Gendreau, 2002, p. 43) is, unfortunately, not rare. The given method, however, is justified by the rational choice theory, with its “cost oriented” (Cullen, Pratt, Miceli, & Moon, 2002, p. 285) approach.

According to the results of the researchconducted by Petersilia and Turner, the experiment carried out by the RAND Corporation, which tested the efficacy of ISPs, or Intensive Surveillance Programs, returned rather unexpected results.

Tested in 14 jurisdictions in nine states (Petersilia & Turner, 1993, p. 281). Despite the fact that several types of programs were used in the course of the experiment, such as “prison diversion” and “enhancement programs” (Petersilia & Turner, 1993, p. 281), Petersilia and Turner prefer an umbrella term of ISP in their study.

Objectivity is the key asset of the latter; the researchers clearly intend to provide an unbiased result and comment on the efficacy of ISP.

However, the study seems to lack evidence on the effects of ISP on not only felons, but also minor offenders. It is doubtful that intensive probation and parole may work equally well on a felon and a petty criminal.

It should be mentioned, though, that ISP studies date back to the 1960s, when ISP was created as a probation management tool. Therefore, the emphasis was put on the rehabilitation of the convicted, whereas the safety of civilians and punishment were considered secondary goals.

However, similar or unimpressively lower rates of arrest rates among the criminals who were supervised in accordance with the ISP principles (Petersilia & Turner, 1993) led to the decrease in the ISP significance and use.

Get in Touch Movement and Its Efficacy: Evaluation

With that being said, the principles of the Get in Touch Movement are still very questionable.

Although it is obvious that, when being afraid of the consequences, people are inclined to abide the law and are most likely not dare to cross it, basing the entire idea of following the letter of the law on people’s fear of imprisonment or another type of punishment is ethically wrong, since the given strategy is aimed at changing people’s behavior without changing the factors that induce the given behavioral patterns.

As long as people are controlled by fear and not by the ethical principles, they will always find the way to overcome this fear and find the means to avoid the obstacles set by the legal system.

With what Cullen, Wright, and Applegate defined as “intermediate punishment” (Cullen, Wright, & Applegate, 1996, p. 73), the entire justice system can be reinvented. Therefore, a “new intellectual consensus” (DiJulio, & Piehl, 1991, p. 15), is required.

References

Cullen, F. T., & Gilbert, K. E. (1982). The rise of rehabilitation. In Cullen, F. T., & Gilbert, K. E. (Eds.), Reaffirming rehabilitation (pp. 45–88). Cincinnati, OH: Anderson Publishing.

Cullen, F. T., & Gilbert, K. E. (1982). Attacking rehabilitation. In Cullen, F. T., & Gilbert, K. E. (Eds.), Reaffirming rehabilitation (pp. 89–149). Cincinnati, OH: Anderson Publishing.

Cullen, F. T., Pratt, T. C., Miceli, S. L., & Moon, M. M. (2002). Dangerous liason? Rational choice theory as the basis for correctional intervention. In Piquero, A. R.., & Tibbets, S. G., Rational choice and criminal behavior: Recent research and future challenges (pp. 279–296). New York, NY: Routledge.

Cullen, F. T., Wright, J. P., & Applegate, B. K. (1996). Control in the community: The limits of reform? In Harland, A. T. (Ed.), Choosing correctional interventions that work: defining the demand and evaluating the supply (pp. 69–116). Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.

DiJulio, J. J., Jr. & Piehl, A. M. (1991). Does prison pay? The Brookings Review 9 (Fall), pp. 28-35.

Gendreau, P. & Goggin, C. (2000). The effects of community sanctions and incarceration on recidivism. Forum on Corrections research, 12(2), pp. 10–13.

Latessa, E. J., Cullen, F. T. & Gendreau, P. (2002). Beyond correctional quackery: Professionalism and the possibility of effective treatment. Federal Probation, 66, pp. 43-49.

MacKenzie, D. L. (2012). From Theory to Policy: Evidence-Based Corrections. In Cullen, F. T. & Jonson, C. L. (Eds.), Correctional theory: Context and consequences (pp. 1–22). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Nagin, D. S. (1998). Criminal deterrence research at the outset of the twenty-first century. In M. Tonry (Ed.), Crime and justice: A review of research (Vol. 23) (pp. 1–42). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Petersilia, J. & Turner, S. (1993). Intensive probation and parole. In M. Tonry (ed.), Crime and justice: A review of research (vol. 17) (pp. 281-335). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Wines, E. C. (1871) Declaration on principles adopted promulgated by the Congress. In Wines, E. C., Transactions of the National Congress on penitentiary and reformatory discipline (pp. 514–517). Cincinnati, OH: Weed, Parsons and Company.

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