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Corrections have existed throughout society for many years and continued to change and evolve in the United States reflecting society’s values and ideals throughout the centuries. In the criminal justice system, corrections exist in more than one form. Not only do corrections refer to jails and prison systems but they also pertain to community-based programs, such as probation, parole, halfway houses, and treatment facilities.
Past, present, and future trends in regard to the development and operation of institutional and community-based corrections vary between states but corrections have grown immensely since the early 1800s and have continued to expand over time. Corrections are adamant to continue to expand into the future because crime is not slowing down so there will remain a strong need for corrections throughout society. The subject of this paper pertains to research of past, present, and future trends in the development and operation of corrections.
In some ways corrections are similar to the operation trends of two decades ago. In other ways the development of corrections has come far compared to corrections in the beginning. Other subjects of the paper include current and future issues for prisons and prison administrators and an explanation for why these issues overwhelm corrections. A last topic for discussion is the roles of alternate corrections as a developing trend. Conditions in the early era were inhumane because of prisoners starving, and trends of punishment were in the form of physical punishment.
Examples of this were punishments, such as prisoners hanged, tortured, beheaded, or mutilated. This punishment was popular in England, but it had an effect on its American predecessors. Although the conservative e trend that emerged in the 1970s continued to dominate justice system policy the debate between punishment and treatment brought new questions about (Muraskin & Roberts, 2009, pp. 263). Over the years and into the future many still wonder the dominate method in reducing the number of criminals in the department of corrections.
The American colonies used means of a corporal punishment just as the motherlands (Gaines & Miller, 208, pp. 313). The system brutally executed citizens who had violated any law. However, not all colonial administrators adhered to a brutal punishment, such as the death penalty. “The Great Law” ensured any victim a restitution of property or goods, given by the felon (pp. 313). This code, based on Quaker ideals and humanity and rehabilitation, by William Penn was introduced.
Although “The Great Law” still allowed the death penalty, most felons who could not pay restitution to their victims were not executed but were sent to prison where they worked. This exceptional code, in William Penn’s case gained attention by other American colonies. After Penn’s death, Pennsylvania, The center of prison reform, opened its very first penitentiary in Philadelphia (Johnston, 2011). This initiated a chain reaction and other states looked to Pennsylvania as an example for reform. They looked to the penitentiary as a hope of rehabilitating the criminal spirit.
It helped to treat and discipline prisoners rather than physically harm them. The silence in a penitentiary was meant to force prisoners to think about their crimes, and weigh the benefits against the consequences. Although the silence treatment was successful, many inmates brought into the penitentiaries and had to share rooms as a result of crowded conditions. This happened at the Walnut Street Prison Penitentiary, and it ended with overcrowded conditions and excessive cost. The prison eventually shut down. Although the prison was shut down, many states continued to use the penitentiary system.
If overcrowding occurred it just meant building new penitentiaries. The penitentiary system was important because it influenced later concepts. Such as the idea of separate confinement, which kept inmates separated in individual cells (Gaines & Miller. 2008, pp. 314). These prisoners had contact with religious instructors known as clergy or prison officials only. Another concept introduced was the idea of reform and progress. Inmates who behaved well and followed rules climb a ladder and once at the top may qualify for early release from confinement.
The history and structure of prisons and prison administrators has changed immensely over the years. Society today faces the increased probability of incarceration for offenders and inmates serve more time for crimes in the present-day compared to the length of incarceration several years ago. This is in part because of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, which caused the length of time served by federal convicts for their crimes to rise significantly (Gaines & Miller, 2008, pp. 316). With more offenders going to prison for longer stays many prisons face overcrowding conditions.
The prison overcrowding problem contributes to several issues currently facing prisons and prison administrators. Prison overcrowding is a current issue that without some extreme solutions will continue to plaque the entire department of corrections well into the future. Over the past decade the prison population continues to rise sharply. Stricter laws, harsher punishment, high rates of recidivism, and higher levels of drug related crimes contribute to the rapid growth of incarcerated offenders. Prison overcrowding almost always has a negative effect on inmates and prison administration or staff.
Overcrowding leads to higher rates of illness, so in turn prison administrators see an increase in health care costs. Limited more are resources and the likelihood of recidivism rates is higher when prisons reach a maximum capacity population. Another current and future issue of concern for prisons and prison administrators stemming from overcrowding is prison violence. Prison researcher Stephen C. Light found that when conditions such as overcrowding worsen. Inmate misconduct often increases (Gaines & Miller, 2008, pp. 340). Prisoners often use violence as a way to show power or to control other inmates.
Prison violence is a means of surviving for some inmates who think of violence as a deterrent against victimization or violence to acquire money or sexual favors. The correctional officers also have to resort to violence as a form of discipline or controlling prison gangs and riots. Funding is another major issue facing prisons and prison administration currently and will continue into the future. The operational cost to house inmates must stay with the limits of an assigned budget. Currently a majority of prisons operate under state and federal governments, unlike the past when private prisons were more common.
Private prisons were often more cost-efficient because of labor costs, competitive bidding, and less red tape involved with private prisons. Prison administration and staff place themselves at risk daily for a paycheck; therefore wages must be in a prison budget. Operating costs for electric and water is essential and rises as the inmate population increases. Prisoners have rights to three meals a day and prison budgets must provide these rights. Another necessity in the budget for prisons and prison administrators is the need to rehabilitate and reform inmates.
Counselors, doctors, and teachers are necessary inside prisons to attempt to reduce the number of repeat offenders in the prison system. Several alternate correction systems play a role as developing trends in society today. With many issues facing correctional institutions today the developing trends and roles of community-based corrections are becoming more common. Community corrections are being framed in terms of alternative sanctions but a slow pace (Muraskin & Roberts, 2009, pp. 263). The emphasis of community corrections is on controlling punishment and retribution potential (263).
The main reason for community-based program is that the cost to place an offender on probation is less than the cost to house an offender in prison. The goal of probation is to give an offender the opportunity to stay out of trouble as opposed to prison. In a sense probation is a second chance for offenders to stay in the community and maintain freedom under supervision. Day reporting centers, half way houses, and electronic monitoring are other examples of community-based corrections that prevent an offender from incarceration in a prison.
The goals of these corrections are to allow offenders to stay in the community and maintain employment with special conditions. Community-based programs save funding and space in correctional facilities while recognizing that offenders do need some supervision and discipline to remain in the general population of the community. Corrections have existed throughout society for many years in one form or another. Several types of corrections exist today from jails and prisons to community-based corrections such as probation, halfway houses, and electronic monitoring.
Corrections and trends are much different today than in the past and years from then as society evolves changes in corrections are sure to occur. Issues facing corrections, including funding shortages, prison overcrowding, and violence in correctional facilities have worsened over the years and will continue into the future. Community-based programs will continue to make some progress in the correction institutions by improving alternative programs for offenders, but society will never be crime free and therefore corrections will always be necessary.