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Rationales of Incarceration

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Rationales of Incarceration as
Punishment and Alternative Methods

The Government has several theories to support the use of incarceration as punishment. Which can be divided into two main categories: utilitarian and retributive. The utilitarian theory seeks to discourage “deter” future crimes by punishing the offender. The retributive theory seeks to punish offenders because they deserve to be punished. If one looks future into the reasons we punish criminals, one can find a number of justifications for using punishment. "Most criminal justice scholars agree [though] that there are four primary justifications for criminal punishment; retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation.” (The drug trade, 2004-2005, p. 206)
The first rationale is deterrence which is let’s use this person as an example so they and others will not commit a crime. I feel the main reason we use incarceration is to punish the offender and to maintain order in society. Some believe that when you punish an offender it will deter them from a lifetime of future crime as well as others in society. You have to ask yourself does incarceration deter crime. The short answer is both yes and no. Some will learn from their mistakes and not do it again and others will not care. Some believe that deterrence is useful in deterring convicted offenders from committing other crimes and will deter others in society from committing crimes. If a person knows that they will be punished if caught committing a crime, they will be less likely to commit a crime. Some believe that people who commit crimes are going to commit them no matter what the outcome is. For me this is not that effective of a correctional sanction.
The second rationale is retribution which has roots in Old Testament, which says an offender should be punished in an equal manner reflecting their crime: "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. Retribution has been defined as punishment that is considered to be morally right and fully deserved” (CorrectionsOne’s). If a person chooses to commit a crime, he/she has created a debt to society or the victim of the crime and must pay for his/her actions. Punishment can be justified as a measure of retributive justice in which the goal is to try to rebalance any wrong doing by ensuring that the offender also suffers a loss.
The third rationale is incapacitation which has some similarities to deterrence in that it utilizes punishment to protect society from crime. The main difference between the two is incapacitation does not address the innocent, just the guilty. This purpose of criminal punishment is to directly restrict the behavior and prevent the criminal from repeating their behavior. The most traditional form of incapacitation is imprisonment in jails and prisons. Imprisonment separates offenders from the community, removing or reducing their ability to carry out certain crimes. Sometimes incapacitation is an effective correctional sanction.
The fourth rationale is rehabilitation which “calls for the improvement of the criminal for his own benefit and to reduce the probability that he will offend again" (Cotton, 2000, The Usually Articulated Purposes, the Relationships Among Them, and Why Purposes Matter section). Some believe that punishment will help to reform and rehabilitate the criminal so that they will not commit an offence again. One can only hope that an inmate's experiences while locked up will leave such a lasting impression that they will do whatever it takes to avoid going to prison again. Unfortunately, this is not the case in prison it does not rehabilitate most inmates, and the majority of criminals return to a life of crime. In an effort to better rehabilitate inmates, prisons have begun providing psychiatrists to help deal with mental disorders and serious issues the prisoners might have. If given the right treatment while in prison rehabilitation can be effective for criminals.
Alternatives to incarceration are programs designed to create opportunities for criminals to serve their sentence in a way other than being incarcerated. There are drug and alcohol treatment programs were people convicted of nonviolent crimes can enroll in a residential drug or alcohol treatment program that can last up to 24 months. Nonviolent criminals can also do community service to repay their debt to society i.e. trash detail on the side of the rode. The most used alternative to incarceration is putting the offender on probation. All of these methods are effective and good alternatives to sending nonviolent criminals to our prison system.

References:
Cotton, M. (2000). Back with a vengeance: the resilience of retribution as an articulated purpose of criminal punishment. American Criminal Law Review, Fall, 37(4), p. 1313. Retrieved May 6, 2008, from Morgan County Community College Web site: http://faculty.mc3.edu/barmstro/drug/back.html
The drug trade and the American criminal justice system [Custom ed.]. (2004-2005). Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing.
Why we incarcerate: Punishment, Dr. Bayley, Bruce. \CorrectionsOne.com retrieved April 23, 2013…...

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