As we saw in Chapter 1 perceptions of the severity of a punishment and thus its

As we saw in chapter 1 perceptions of the severity of

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retain their jobs and maintain connection to their families and communities. As we saw in Chapter 1, perceptions of the severity of a punishment, and thus its deterrent effect, are a function of the contrast between one’s everyday life and life under punishment conditions (the contrast effect). Of the more than 4 million Americans on probation in 2008, a total of 59% of them successfully completed their conditions of supervision and were released from probation (Glaze & Bonczar, 2009). In the event of a failure to live up to the conditions of probation, the prison sentence is then typically imposed. Thus, while many fail the probation period, the majority succeed, so surely providing nonviolent offenders the opportunity to try to redeem themselves while remaining in the community is sensible criminal justice policy. But what are the benefits for the community? (1) Probation costs between $700 and $1,000 per year as opposed to $20,000 to $30,000 per year (more for women, juveniles, and the elderly) for imprisonment, saving the taxpayer at least $19,000 per year per non-incarcerated felon (Foster, 2006). Many jurisdictions require probationers to pay for their own supervision, which means that the taxpayer pays nothing. However, while economic considerations are vitally important to policy makers, they are not the primary concern of corrections; protecting the community is. Community-based corrections is the solution only for those offenders who do not pose a significant risk to public safety. (2) Employed probationers stay in their communities and continue to pay taxes; offenders who were unemployed at the time of conviction may obtain training and help in finding a job. This adds further to the tax revenues of the community and, more importantly, allows offenders to keep or obtain the stake in conformity that employment offers. A job also allows them the wherewithal to pay fines and court costs, as well as restitution to victims. (3) In the case of married offenders, community supervision maintains the integrity of the family, whereas incarceration could lead to its disruption and all the negative consequences such disruption entails. (4) Probation prevents felons from becoming further embedded in a criminal lifestyle by being exposed to chronic offenders in prison. Almost all prisoners will leave the institution someday, and many will emerge harder, more criminally sophisticated, and more bitter than they were when they entered. Furthermore, they are now ex-cons, a label that is a heavy liability when attempting to reintegrate into free society. (5) Many more offenders get into trouble because of deficiencies than because of pathologies. Deficits such as the lack of education, a substance abuse problem, faulty thinking patterns, and so forth can be assessed and addressed using the methods that will be discussed in Chapter 14 on treatment. If we can correct these deficits to some extent, then the community benefits, because it is a self-evident truth that whatever helps the offender, protects the community.
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