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The US Prison System: Qualitative and Quantitative Research Essay


The criminal justice system in the United States plays a critical role in ensuring that there is rule of law in the country. The correctional facilities are designed to ensure that those who break the law are transformed into people who can fit into the social system. The study looks at the United States prison system and the primary challenges it faces.

Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Corrections, according to Shipley and Arrigo (2012, p. 78), is “a term describing a variety of functions typically carried out by government agencies, and involving the punishment, treatment, and supervision of persons who have been convicted of crimes.” The term can also be used in the field of academics to refer to the study of programs, policies, and theories that are related to the practice of corrections (Mallicoat & Ireland, 2014). In the United States, corrections form part of the major components of the criminal justice system. When criminals are arrested, taken through the court system, and proven to be guilty, they are handed over to the correction system. The correction system is responsible for the imprisonment of the people, their parole, or probation.

As the name suggests, the primary goal of the correctional system is to transform the prisoners so that they can become better persons who can be integrated back to society after serving their term. In most of the cases, people often consider prisons as facilities meant to mete out punishment to those who are proven guilty and given jail terms by the courts. Lack of some of the freedoms and rights enjoyed by other citizens out of correctional facilities is the main reason why many people believe that prisons are meant to punish offenders. However, Cusack (2015) says that it is important to have a positive attitude toward the correction system. When the behavior of an individual becomes a danger or a bother to other members of the society, it may be necessary to take them through the correction system so that they can come to appreciate the need to respect the law. In this paper, the purpose is to conduct research about corrections and its importance in the United States.

Research problem

According to a study by Pollock (2014), most Americans still do not understand what corrections mean in relevance to the criminal justice system. The prison system is still viewed as centers for punishment and confinement of those who break the law. Others view it as a place where the lives of those who are sentenced to death are taken. The negative perception that most of the Americans have towards correctional facilities is not entirely unjustified. No one, in his or her right mind, would want to be incarcerated. People love their freedom and the benefits that come with it, and as such, would always avoid going to prison at all costs. The prison system was traditionally used as a place where those who break the law are tortured.

Many people have died in prison under very unclear circumstances (Innes, 2015). However, it is also true that many more always come out of these facilities fully transformed and ready to integrate with the rest of the society without being a threat to anyone. Cusack (2015) says that most criminals often turn to their criminal acts because of emotional, psychological, or economic reasons. In the correction centers, they get experts who can help them overcome the weaknesses that drive them into crime. When they are finally released, they can use the skills learned in the prison to make their society a better place for them and for others too. Conducting a study in this field will make it possible to create an understanding of correction and for the society to appreciate its relevance in transforming offenders into law-abiding citizens.

Literature Review

The criminal justice system in the United States has gone through massive changes over the recent past, and one of the areas that have witnessed these massive changes in the correctional system. Scholars have conducted extensive research in this field of corrections. In this section, the researcher will conduct a review of literature, in the form of annotated bibliography, to help understand this system.

Clear, T. R., Reisig, M. D., Turpin-Petrosino, C., & Cole, G. F. (2016). American corrections in brief. Melbourne, Australia: Cengage Learning.

In this book, the authors focus on corrections in the United States. They appreciate that the correction system in the United States has gone through a massive transformation over the recent past as the stakeholders try to ensure that prisoners can be transformed into better people in society. Those who go to prison are loved ones of American citizens or residents. The reason for their going to prison is related to their actions or inactions which go against the law. The aim of the correctional facilities is to remind the offender that they have a responsibility to society and that their actions or inactions have consequences. The primary goal of these facilities is to make the prisoners understand and appreciate the need to respect the law.

Pollock, J. M. (2014). Ethical dilemmas and decisions in criminal justice. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

The scholar focused on the ethical dilemmas and decisions that often have to be made in the criminal justice system in the country. Not everyone who is taken to court and proven to be guilty is guilty of the crime for which they are charged. There are cases where innocent people are forced to accept crimes they did not commit so as to get certain favors and to protect the real perpetrators. When this happens, the entire criminal justice system fails. The police fail in arresting the criminal. The prosecutors prosecute innocent people. The court sends the wrong person to jail and the prison systems start correcting the behavior of a person who needs not such services. In some cases, innocent people are framed up and taken to prison for offenses they never committed. The dilemma that the system faces is how to deal with a situation where innocent people end up in prisons. The scholar insists that it is the work of the police and the prosecution to ensure that innocent people are not framed for crimes they never committed.

Cole, G. F., Smith, C. E., & DeJong, C. (2017). Criminal justice in America. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning

The criminal justice system in the United States uniquely focuses on the need to mete out punishment in equal proportion to the offense committed. Criminal acts such as murder, rape, and robbery with violence are some of the offenses that attract serious punishments. Specific economic crimes may also attract serious punishment. It is the responsibility of the courts and the prosecutors to ensure that the jail term that one has to serve is proportionate to the crime committed. The authors criticized situation where low-level thieves are sentenced to over five years in jail for stealing food items, while corrupt government officials who steal millions meant for the public are sent to jail for less than one year because they can afford the best lawyers to argue out their case. Justice can be seen to have been served only if the punishment is proportionate to the crime. When a government official steals money meant for hospitals, many people may end up dying because of limited facilities or personnel. Such a crime can only be comparable to murder. The sentence that a serial killer would get should be the same as that given to such a corrupt government official.

Turvey, B. E., & Crowder, S. (2013). Ethical Justice: Applied issues for criminal justice students and professionals. Oxford, UK: Elsevier Academic Press.

Ethical justice is important but very elusive, according to these two authors. When a judge and the jury sits to listen to both the prosecution and the defense attorneys argue out their case in court, it is often believed that their knowledge of the case and decision shall purely be based on what is presented. It is expected of them that their ruling shall not, in any way, be influenced by the external forces. However, the truth is that in many cases these court officials allow themselves to be influenced by external forces. The jury or the judge may be compromised financially, through threats, or personal interests. Once these officers are compromised, ethical justice cannot be witnessed. The decision made will be biased and made to unfairly favor one party at the expense of the other. Such incidents are often common when the wealthy and the powerful find themselves in courts. Their influence makes it possible for them to bend the law in their favor. In such cases, innocent people find themselves serving jail terms for offenses committed by other people.

Stojkovic, S., Kalinich, D. B., & Klofas, J. (2014). Criminal justice organizations: Administration and management. New York, NY: Springer.

In their book, these scholars look at the role and responsibility of criminal justice organizations. The book emphasizes the role of the courts and prisons in making society a better place for everyone. The courts are expected to offer a stage where the prosecution and the defendant can argue their case in a fair platform. When the courts reach a conclusion that a given person is indeed guilty, it should be that the evidence presented is as convincing as possible. The criminal should then be handed over to prison service to start serving the sentence. The authors argue that the circumstances under which a person committed a given crime should be clear to the prison department. The correctional facilities should offer the offenders the opportunity to change their behavior. These correctional facilities have specialists who can help such individuals. However, that can only happen if they can get to learn the truth. The courts should coordinate very closely with the prison department, especially at the time of handing over an offender to the prison officers. The goal should be to ensure that the crime of such a person and circumstances under which it was committed remains clear to the prison officers.

Shahidullah, S. M. (2012). Comparative criminal justice systems: Global and local perspectives. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Shahidullah conducted a comparative study of the criminal justice system of the United States and that of other countries around the world. According to this research, the United States has a very unique criminal justice system compared with other countries. The manner in which different people are treated based on their crime differs across the world. For instance, many developed countries around the world still have the death penalty, but those sentenced to death end up serving their entire lives in prison.

However, the United States still has cases where people sentenced to death are killed, especially using lethal injections. Another uniqueness of the United States criminal justice system is the use of Guantanamo Bay as a military detention camp for people suspected to be terrorists. The scholar argues that some people spend more time in this concentration camp than they would serve in prison if they are sentenced in court. This system has seen many people admit to crimes they never committed. According to the United States constitution, the prosecution is prohibited from using torture or coercion to force a suspect to confess his crime. However, suspects sent to Guantanamo Bay are often subjected to emotional and physical torture. The conditions in this camp are worse than it would be in maximum prisons. As such, suspects would prefer owning mistakes, even if they are innocent, to avoid such harsh conditions.

Innes, C. (2015). Healing corrections: The future of imprisonment. Boston, MA: University Press of New England.

In this book, the scholar argues that there is a need to fight the rot in the prison system within the country. Imprisonment is not something that any person would want for him/herself, for a close friend, or a relative. However, it is an eventuality for people who are caught going against the law. Once one is imprisoned, there is a pattern that should be followed in ensuring that he or she pays for the mistakes committed. However, some corrupt prison officials are creating safe heavens in prisons for influential prisoners. Such prisoners end up in special cells where they have access to almost anything they may want. They can get to meet their family members and friends at any time. Some of them are criminals who get to continue running their criminal gangs even more efficiently while in prison. In such a system, the prisons fail in their cardinal duty of correcting offenders. They become institutions that facilitate crime in society. Such illegal practices need to be stopped.

Copes, H., & Pogrebin, M. (2016). Voices from criminal justice: Thinking and reflecting on the system. New York, NY: Routledge.

The United States criminal justice system has faced criticism over the years because of what many consider as favoritism for the rich and powerful, and injustice towards the poor. Many prisoners have offered accounts of how they were skillfully framed for offenses not even known to them. When taken to court, the system was efficient in sentencing them and sending them to prison. These people have tried to fight for justice while in prison, but the system is designed not to favor them. They are left to suffer and pain knowing that they are innocent. The impact of such actions is negative because these individuals when released may decide to take the law into their own hands as a way of seeking justice or revenge. Instead of fighting crime, such actions end up promoting it.

Cusack, C. M. (2015). Animals and criminal justice. New Brunswick, NY: Transaction Publishers.

Cusack conducted research on criminal justice and how the courts and prisons work to promote the creation of a society where people abide by the law. In this book, the scholar notes that the prison system has made an effort to ensure that prisoners get the best chance to transform their way of life to be in line with what is expected of them by society. However, the author laments that there are still some issues that need to be addressed in both the corridors of justice and in the prison system. In the corridors of justice, there has been a practice that one’s innocence can best be demonstrated if they have financial strength. Without a good lawyer, it may be impossible for one to argue out his or her own case. The court-appointed lawyers are often overworked and lack the motivation that would drive them to fight for the rights of the accused. They care little about the freedom of their clients when working on pro bono.

Currie, E. (2013). Crime and punishment in America. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company.

The author focuses on the need to ensure that crime is properly punished through the court and prison system in the country. However, the punishment should be meted out only after ascertaining that the suspect committed the said crime. When an innocent person is taken to jail because of the lack of resources to prove his or her innocence, then a cycle of injustice begins. When such a person is taken to court, there is nothing that can be done to him or her to transform him into a better person because he is not an offender, to begin with. In most of the cases, such people leave prisons worse than they were. The desire to seek revenge may drive them to interact closely with some of the hardcore criminals and even form alliances so that they can work as a unit once they are either released or when they manage to escape from prison.


When planning to conduct research, one of the most important things to do is to come up with a methodology of how needed data will be collected and analyzed in order to get the desired results. In this section, the researcher will look at the method that will be used when gathering the data from both primary and secondary sources.

Data collection

Data will be collected from both primary and secondary sources. A secondary source of data will be obtained from books, journal articles, and other reliable online sources. Primary data sources will be obtained from specific individuals who will be sampled to take part in the study. The researcher intends to have correctional facility officers, prisoners, probation and parole officers, and court officials as participants in this study. Given that the participants will be people in different positions and capacities, stratified sampling will be the most appropriate way of selecting the sample. The groups mentioned above will be the different strata that will be used to identify the participants. In each stratum, a simple random sampling method will be used to identify specific individuals who will be part of the study. The participants will be duly informed about the intended study. The researcher plans to get permission to conduct the study from the relevant officials of the court and prisons selected for this research. Each of the selected participants will be prepared for the study before the actual day of collecting data. Data will be collected through interviews. The interview will be conducted using questionnaires.

Statistical data analysis

Data analysis may take qualitative or quantitative form based on the objectives of the study. In this research, the statistical method of data analysis was considered appropriate based on what the researcher seeks to achieve. There are a number of statistical methods that can be used when conducting quantitative studies. Mean is one of the methods that can be used to analyze data in detail. Through this method, we can determine how rampant such malpractices as corruption and favoritism are in our prison system. The biggest advantage of this method is that it allows the views of different people to be weighed before making a conclusion about how rampant a practice is within the system. To determine the mean, the response must be structured and assigned specific values.

Standard deviation is another important data analysis method that can be used in this study (Innes, 2015). It is used to determine how data is spread around the mean. For instance, there are people who believe that there is a rot in the correctional facilities and nothing is being done to address the issue. However, others believe that progress towards having a fair and corruption-free prison has been witnessed. To know how these varying views are spread around the mean, the standard deviation is very important. The third analysis that is important and may be very useful in this study is the regression analysis. This analysis helps in explaining the relationship that exists between dependent and independent variables. The analysis helps in determining whether the relationship is weak or strong. In this research, we will be looking at some of the issues causing inadequacy in the prison system. We will look at how strong the relationship is, and what can be done to address this issue.

The three statistical methods are very important in this study because they serve different purposes. However, the most important of the three analyses is regression analysis. The regression analysis makes it possible to determine the strength of the relationship between the dependent and independent variables. As such, it will be possible to identify the primary causes of issues raised about our prison system. Identifying these independent variables makes it easy to find the desired solution.


Mallicoat, S. L., & Ireland, C. (2014).. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "The US Prison System: Qualitative and Quantitative Research." September 15, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-us-prison-system-qualitative-and-quantitative-research/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'The US Prison System: Qualitative and Quantitative Research'. 15 September.

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