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Analysis - the state correctional system

You are a staffer working in the office of a state senator. The senator has recently been focusing on the state correctional system which seems to be a constant target of criticism for an increasingly vocal number of civil libertarian groups. In addition, some recent charges of abuse at a local jail have also caught the attention of the senator. She is speaking before the state bar association next week and intends to address the ways in which the correctional system may be improved. She has asked you to prepare a detailed outline on correctional theory in general and then make a series of suggestions on ways to implement some of the non-traditional theories of corrections.

Mass incarceration is a generally understood and accepted correctional approach. However, there is often criticism of the simple warehousing of human beings convicted of crimes. In the case of violent criminals, there is the need to safeguard society from the likely future criminal acts of a person convicted of the most heinous offenses. However, even among those individuals, there are schools of thought within the correctional system as to ways in which even violent felons may be rehabilitated and/or treated. There is even more latitude when it comes to addressing the punitive options for those convicted of non-violent or even "victimless" crimes. For example, there are arguably different legitimate corrections/societal goals between incarcerating a violent sexual predator or serial murderer as opposed to an individual imprisoned on a felony drug charge because he or she sold narcotics to support a drug addiction.


What are the competing theories of corrections prevalent in today's system?
How are the goals of these punishment or rehabilitative strategies different?
Is there data to support one particular approach over another?
Write about at least two non-traditional correctional approaches and address the goal of each.
Do you think this approach is effective?
Are some of these approaches more cost-effective than conventional incarceration?
State why you believe so and support your answers with data on rates of recidivism, completion of academic and vocational programs in prison, etc.

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Let's look at each question, which you can then draw on for your final copy.

1. What are the competing theories of corrections prevalent in today's system?

Different authors name different theories. Some refer to the goals of punishment as the theories: Retribution, Deterrence, Rehabilitation, and Social Protection, while others refer to the philosophies behind these goals of punishment: utilitarian, retributive, and denunciation theories.

Presently, the U.S. conception of punishment is a combination of the utilitarian, retributive, and denunciation theories. However, the most widely accepted rationale for punishment in the United States is retribution. This is seen in the rationale for a conviction, as the sentence a defendant receives is always, at least in part, a form of retribution. However, a sentence may combine utilitarian principles with retribution. For instance, an offender sentenced to prison for several years satisfy the public's desire for vengeance, while simultaneously, have educational programs inside the prison that reflects the utilitarian goal of rehabilitation (Punishment - Theories Of Punishment,

These theories use a combination of goals for punishment: Retribution, Deterrence, Rehabilitation, and Social Protection and Social Humiliation.

2. How are the goals of these punishment or rehabilitative strategies different?

Utilitarian has the goals of both deterrence and rehabilitation. The utilitarian theory is "consequentialist" in nature. It recognizes that punishment has consequences for both the offender and society and holds that the total good produced by the punishment should exceed the total evil. In other words, punishment should not be unlimited. One illustration of consequentialism in punishment is the release of a prison inmate suffering from a debilitating illness. If the prisoner's death is imminent, society is not served by his continued confinement because he is no longer capable of committing crimes. Specific deterrence means that the punishment should prevent the same person from committing crimes. Specific deterrence works in two ways. First, an offender may be put in jail or prison to physically prevent her from committing another crime for a specified period. Second, this incapacitation is designed to be so unpleasant that it will discourage the offender from repeating her criminal behaviour. Rehabilitation is another utilitarian rationale for punishment, mainly to prevent future crime by giving offenders the ability to succeed within the confines of the law. Rehabilitative measures for criminal offenders usually include treatment for afflictions such as mental illness, chemical dependency, and chronic violent behaviour. Rehabilitation also includes the use of educational programs that give offenders the knowledge and skills needed to compete in the job market (

In contrast, retribution as a goal of punishment is an act of moral vengeance by which society makes the offender suffers as much as the suffering caused by the crime. The counterpart to the utilitarian theory of punishment is the retributive theory. Under this theory, offenders are punished for criminal behaviour because they deserve punishment. Criminal behaviour upsets the peaceful balance of society, and punishment helps to restore the balance. The retributive theory focuses on the crime itself as the reason for imposing punishment. Where the utilitarian theory looks forward by basing punishment on social benefits, the retributive theory looks backward at the transgression as the basis for punishment (Markesinis, 2007).

Retribution dates back to biblical days as seen in the phrase: "an eye for an eye.?Criminal behaviour was seen as an offense against both society and God. Crime was seen as upsetting the natural order of the world as a whole. Thus, the punishment should echo the harshness of the crime (aka: "just desert" theory). The retributive theory focuses on the crime itself as the reason ...

Solution Summary

You are a staffer working in the office of a state senator. This solution thoroughly addresses the questions based on the scenario.