Impact of Alternatives to Incarceration
The routine activities theory suggests crime is composed of three influences: motivated criminals, satisfactory targets, and a lack of leadership (Siegel & Worrall, 2014). If a community has these three factors there is an increased risk of victimization. If the correctional system fails at rehabilitating criminals, the victimization rate increases. The release of criminals back into society without proper supervision or rehabilitation creates motivated criminals. The released offenders cannot find a job, have lost ties with their families, and cannot make a living; therefore, they relapse back to criminal activity. The lack of opportunity to better their lifestyles causes them to become motivated to commit crimes.
Motivated criminals target vulnerable victims, and the community becomes a target. Victimization is increased because these motivated criminals will commit crimes to support old habits and lifestyles. As more motivated offenders are released, the risk of victimization increases. Furthermore, poor communities often have a lack of leadership. Parental guardians are most often the motivated criminal. This creates young motivated criminals when analyzed from social learning theories.
However, if the correctional system is successful, more and more rehabilitated citizens will be released. These citizens will be motivated to stay out of prison, be able to maintain a job, and be able to provide leadership. These citizens will work to transform their communities and work to prevent the youth from committing crimes while decreasing the number of victims.
Victims are also able to have an impact on persuading judges and jurors, parole, and probation officers to rehabilitate, incarcerate, or punish offenders. In turn, victims need access to the court system in order to discover how an offender’s release can impact them. If the release would be negative, the victims have the right to contact the corrections system and prevent the offender from being released.
In order to provide social control, the correctional system punishes offenders. In this light, the correctional system acts as a security measure and protects society. Incarceration can also be used as a deterrent. The incapacitation side of criminal justice suggests society can prevent criminals from committing crimes by incarcerating them. If the person is incarcerated, he or she can no longer commit crimes. Incarceration also works to rehabilitate offenders and prepare them for re-entry.
In contrast, incarceration costs taxpayers over 40 billion dollars each year averaging $40,000 per inmate (Henrichson & Delaney, 2012). Incarceration costs vary from state to state, and society must account for health care, food, housing, and mental health services for inmates. Prisons must allocate funds towards rehabilitation; furthermore, the privatization of prisons increases the cost of incarceration when profit margins are considered. Private prisons are focused on incarceration for profit not rehabilitation; therefore, the cost of incarceration will not decrease.
Criminal Justice System
From the law enforcement standpoint, policies are created to maintain a toughness against crime and to enforce criminal law. From this aspect, law enforcement must arrest criminals that would otherwise be warned or simply fined. This creates an influx of non-violent criminals into the judicial system. The judicial system applies the punishments written in legislation including three strikes laws, broken windows policing, and stop, question, and frisk policies that provide incarceration as a means of deterrence. In this light, the correctional system becomes over-crowded with non-violent offenders provoking a move to prison privatization, lack of rehabilitation, and overall failure.
Incarceration has a positive effect on violent criminals. Law enforcement arrest violent offenders and the judicial system provides harsh punishment for violent crimes. The correctional system protects society by keeping these violent offenders away from society.
Siegel, L. J., & Worrall, J. L. (2014). Introduction to Criminal Justice (14 ed.). Belmont, CA: Cengage.
Henrichson, C., & Delaney, R. (2012, July 20). The Price of Prisons. Retrieved from VERA Institute of Justice: https://www.vera.org/sites/default/files/resources/downloads/price-of-prisons-updated-version-021914.pdf