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Over the years government officials have followed

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Over the years, government officials have followed four basic philosophies to help justify the choice of sentences and to help define the purpose of incarceration. 1. Retribution The most ancient goal of sentencing, suggests that offenders deserve punishment and that it is proper for society to seek vengeance for crimes that are normally offensive. 2. Deterrence Deterrence contends that certain, swift punishment of convicted criminals will cause other people not to commit crimes. To the extent that crime rates have continued to rise as prison sentences have gotten longer, there are serious questions raised about their deterrent effect. Many criminologists argue that it is certainty, more than severity of punishment that deters crime. 3. Rehabilitation Rehabilitation became the goal of prison reformers in the 1930s, and it dominated prison philosophy into the 1970s. Rehabilitation seeks to change individual behavior, to make offenders see the evil of their ways, and to prepare them for a productive life outside prison. There is an emphasis on psychological counseling, education, and job training. Halfway houses and the use of parole officers help facilitate return to a productive life. Statistics suggest that rehabilitation does not work well. Recidivism rates are very high – 70% or more. Instead of rehabilitation, imprisonment seemed more likely to serve as a training ground for future criminal behavior. 4. Incapacitation This calls for separating people from society, often by long, or at least certain, prison sentences. It is argued that to the extent criminals are taken off the streets, they will not be endangering lives and property. The primary objective is not punishment. The result of this policy is a dramatic increase in prison populations. State prisons: 1990 – 685,000; 9
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ISS 225 Crime 2000 – 1.18 million. (60% increase) In 2002 the total number of people incarcerated in the United States (federal and state) passed 2 million. Approximately one in every 142 U.S. residents was behind bars. Prison population growth has been in part due to the trend in the 1990s for longer minimum sentences, less parole possibility, especially for certain crimes like drugs, and the institution of three strikes laws. In 2003 we began to see a reversal of this trend as about half the states passed laws eliminating some of their mandatory minimum sentences and restoring early release for parole. Overcrowded prisons and state budget problems were the main factor. E. Prison Reform Because of the overcrowding of state prisons, state financial problems and the fact that all criminals are not alike and certain individuals may respond differently to different punishments, especially the youth, states have experimented with alternatives to prison. The textbook points out several of these alternatives.
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