Out of these four types of punishment, the earliest concept is retribution. However, it is this kind of punishment which many Americans still favor up to this day – although under another name. It is now called capital punishment. Advocates still maintain that those who have committed heinous crimes like murder should have to pay with their own lives. However, instead of categorizing capital punishment as retribution, they are now peddling it around as a deterrent type of punishment. They claim that death penalty discourages would-be murderers because of the fear of being executed.
Some quarters, however, are out to disprove this claim by citing empirical studies. According to them, studies have shown that aside from failing to deter crimes, death penalty is not even the most effective type of punishment as far as social protection is concerned. They argue that if the objective is merely to protect society from criminals, keeping them behind bars should be enough. Going to the extent of killing them is not only superfluous but constitutes an act of vengeance (Reiman, 1990). There are also those who believe that punishment is not very effective as a deterrent when compared to other means of control.
According to this school of thought, punishment is essentially punitiveness, therefore, “is an ineffective vehicle of social control [because it is a] ramplex of attitudes centered about social revenge, having as component parts strong sanctions and retributions through a severe system of penalties and punishment. ” In other words, they maintain that controls based on vengeance could never deter crime because of their negative effects not only on offenders’ families, especially the families of those who were put to death after being wrongly accused of crimes (Schultz and Allen, 1967).
Statistics appear to prove their point. What happened after death penalty was re-instated in the country in 1977 clearly shows its ineffectiveness as a tool for deterring crime. Let us take, for instance, murder and rape. The rate of murder in the United States per 100,000 inhabitants in 1976 was 8. 7 while that of rape stood at 26. 6. In 1977, the rate for murder increased to 8. 8, while the rate of rape also increased to 29.4.
During the succeeding three-year period from 1978-1980, continued increases in these rates were recorded. For murder, the rates steadily climbed to 9. 0 in 1978, 9. 8 in 1979, and 10. 2 per 100,000 inhabitants in 1980. The rates for rape similarly rose: from 29. 4 in 1977 to 31. 0 in 1978, 34. 7 in 1979, and 36. 8 in 1980 (The Disaster Center, 2007). For this reason, many Americans now prefer rehabilitation, citing the findings of a study which was conducted by the New Jersey Department of Corrections. The study investigated the effect of a General Educational Development program (GED) on recidivism. A sample of inmates who attended the GED from 1999 – 2000 while in prison was compared with a matched sample of those who did not take part in the GED.
The study found that the GED participants had a much lower level of re-offending than those who did not attend the GED. In other words, significantly less GED graduates were again arrested, convicted, and imprisoned. This meant that released inmates who attended the GED were more successful in rejoining society (Zgoba, 2006). Meanwhile, Herendeen (2000) agreed with Schultz and Allen (1967). He attributed recidivism to the fact that released convicts harbor even “greater anger and cynicism toward society” after being punished and want to get back on society as soon as they are released from prison.
Although he expressed some confidence in the GED, he nevertheless suggested some modifications. According to him, while making inmates attend the GED is a positive step, it is not enough to ensure that once released, inmates would rejoin society successfully. He is probably referring to the fact that recidivism still occurred in spite of the GED. His suggestion was that GED should be complemented by programs aimed at the emotional and moral development of the inmates. For this to be achieved, he suggested that qualified counselors and therapists should be hired to attend to the needs of inmates.
The primary objective of this complementary program is to ensure that inmates would leave the prison with “changed hearts and minds” so that they would become competent members and gainful contributors once they rejoin society. References Herendeen, J. (2000). Prisoners need help, not just punishment. San Antonio Express News. Retrieved December 12, 2008, from http://proquest. umi. com. ezproxy. apollolibrary. com/pqdweb? index=6&did=1170345031&SrchMode=1&sid=1&Fmt=3&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1211754056&clientId=2606 Macionis, J. J. (2006). Society: the basics (8th ed. ).
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. Reiman, J. (1990). The Death Penalty, Deterrence and Horribleness: Reply to Michael Davis. Social Theory & Practice, 0037802X, Summer90, Vol. 16, Issue 2. Retrieved December 12, 2008, from http://web. ebscohost. com. ezproxy. apollolibrary. com/ehost/pdf? vid=4&hid=107&sid=69e75d15-9590-4434-a463-91618521350e%40sessionmgr104 Schultz, C. and Allen, H. E. (1967). Inmate And Non-Inmate Attitudes Toward Punitiveness.
Criminologica, Aug1967, Vol. 5 Issue 2, p40-45. Retrieved December 12, 2008, from http://web. ebscohost. com. ezproxy. apollolibrary. com/ehost/pdf? vid=3&hid=104&sid=7750f4e3-f096-426e-b0db-e086f172703e%40sessionmgr102 The Disaster Center. (2007). United States Crime Rates 1960-2007. Retrieved December 12, 2008, from (http://www. disastercenter. com/crime/uscrime. htm) Zgoba, K. (2006). New Jersey’s Analysis of the effect of GED attainment on inmate recidivism. Conference Papers – American Society of Criminology, 2006 Annual Meeting. Retrieved December 12, 2008, from http://web. ebscohost. com. ezproxy. apollolibrary. com/ehost/detail? vid=4&hid=107&sid=69e75d15-9590-4434-a463-91618521350e%40sessionmgr104