Criminal justice is a complex system that is characterized by various practices, and organizations that a national or a local government uses in its endeavors of maintaining social controls, deterring crimes, and to punishing those who indulge in criminal activities. For purposes of this paper, a narrowed down discussion on corrections as one of the major components that makes up criminal justice system will be carried out. Corrections are the way a society handles its criminals who have been convicted of wrong doing. In the paper various changes and challenges such as contemporary terrorism, the issue of across the seas U.S. prisons among others will be addressed in view of defining and redefining justice in regards to today’s corrections service contrasted to what it was, and perhaps its future.
The theory of retributive justice emphasizes more on the importance of punishment by answering of these three questions: Why punish? Who should be punished? What punishment should be given? On the other hand, utilitarianism perspective regards punishment as not a solution to crimes; it asserts that justice requires the maximization of total or average welfare across all relevant individuals. However, it reasons that sometimes punishment might be necessary, and that core purpose of such punishment should be to deter, rehabilitate, and incapacitate. In order for punishment to achieve all those purposes there must be a great emphasis on the adherence to justice. In criminal justice system the component that is responsible for facilitating punishment is corrections. According to criminal law theory correction is the societal handling of criminals who have been tried, found guilty and convicted of some crimes. After the due process of law and as provided for by the Fourteenth Amendment criminals may be deprived of their lives, property or liberty. Sentences that are commonly imposed on criminals ranges from probation to serving a prison term. [Walker, S. (1992)]
In regards to retributive theory, justice is mainly punishing-oriented affair; it involves looking back looking back to acts of wrongdoing and making efforts of balancing through the justified punitive measures. The theory addresses three major questions; why punish? Who should be punished? What punishment should they receive? On the other hand from a utilitarian perspective, future consequences of the punishment are more considered. Utilitarianism point of view requires that a maximization of the total welfare across all relevant individuals, and therefore punishment cannot be a best way to satisfy this goal. However, the same perspective holds that, punishment might be necessary in the maximization of the overall good (correction) in the long-term; in which case it serves three main purposes: deterrence; rehabilitation, and; security/incapacitation. These three basic ways are aimed at correcting the wrongdoers into becoming good and productive people in the society. Aristotle’s conception of corrective justice outlines a method of judicial decision making whereby only the practically wise judge can be in apposition of understanding content of corrective justice across all cases. He asserts that judging requires moral value and not technical, philosophical or legal expertise. [Walker, S. (1992)]
The correctional process involves various practices that are administered to wrongdoers depending on the magnitude of the offenses or their criminal history. Some of the common practice with correctional justice are; restorative justice, parole and probation, and pre-release programs. [Liebermann, 2007]
Restorative justice, as the name implies is a theory of justice whose approach to crimes committed is that of a community or a state rather than acted against an individual. The persons who harms another takes fully responsibility of their actions and is required to offer an apology to the harmed person, this helps to bring high rates of satisfaction, true accountability by the offender, and hence reduced recidivism. In terms of successful achievement of justice, restorative justice is practice that helps to bring immense satisfaction to the offender, the harmed, and even the society. Restorative justice takes into consideration the societal interests of institutionalizing the process of corrections through peaceful approaches to problem-solving and violations of legal and human rights. According to Liebermann, (2007) restoration justice seeks to balance rights of offenders and needs of victims, therapeutic and retributive models of justice, and a balance between the need to rehabilitate the offenders and to protect that public. Retributive justice is practical change that plays a core factor to the achievement of justice in corrections service. [Liebermann, 2007]
Sometimes convicted prisoners are not sentenced to jail but instead they are placed under probation subject to incarceration upon breaking of the conditions which are imposed, others who are jailed may subsequently be released on parole before the completion of their term and again subject to re-incarceration upon the violation of conditions imposed. The process of revoking paroles or probation is subject to the due process clause [Morrissey v. Brewer] which makes it better for prisoners undergo correctional services outside a prison which helps them to become better citizens than they would be in the prisons people on probation and parole are required to abide by the law, to obtain some form of employment, and should show high moral standards, be useful in the community, and to refrain from bad company. To track the offenders’ movements’ they are fitted with electronic tags. Probation may also be unsupervised or not depending on the nature of offense or the stage of the offenders’ sentence. Probation and parole are measures that have been noted to help in the proper correction to many individuals. [Fourteenth Amendment, 2009]
Anther change that marks a success in the perpetuation of justice in correctional units is introduction of pre-release programs. In order to have ex-prisoners who fit well in the society, correctional facilities offer pre-release services, these helps to prepare the prisoners physically an psychologically of what to expect the outside the walls. The pre-release programs focus on improving on the prisoners’ employability and improve their human relation and social skills. Counseling services are also provided during this period in order to facilitate a successful re-integration into the society. [Fourteenth Amendment, 2009]
As a result of the changes brought about by terrorism, correctional facilities have been greatly affected. For instance, following the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks in the US, many changes have been put in place especially targeting people who are deemed to be terrorists or have contacts with them. One of the key tasks of corrections is to make sure that crimes are not repeated again, a task that the correctional service has always done and is doing all that is practically possible to prevent the attacks. Extreme measures and precautions have been taken to try and make sure that terrorism acts does not happen again in the American soil or even in the world at large. After the due process of trying and convicting those who were held accountable following the September 11, 2001 very many people were found guilty and marked for “terrorism significant sentences” ranging from a few days to life sentences. [Haymin, 2007]
Another significant change that has been observed is minimizing of prisoners freedom to contact their attorney’s. Though according to the law prisoners should have accesses to their attorneys, sometimes this may not be the case depending on the case. Generally terrorist suspects especially those who come form foreign countries are treated with great care. [US Secret Prisons, 2009]
In the wake of global terrorism the US has now responded to setting prisons in foreign soil. Many CIA secret prisons exist in various parts of the world, the Guantanamo Bay in Cuba is an examples. This is a strategy that was taken by the US criminal justice system to help in acquiring information from high-value, hardened terrorists who are normally trained to resist interrogation. This has shifted the significance of US prisons (correctional facilities) from a domestic stage to an international center stage. From a different perspective these secret prisons are violation of the law as they are used as centers for torture and not corrections. [Haymin, 2007]
Initially the prevailing view on prisoners was that “has, as a consequence of his crime, not only forfeited his liberty, but all his personal rights except those which the law in its humanity accord to him. He is for the time being the slave of the state.” However, it no longer the case now, the federal courts supervises and enforces constitutional rights to all persons including prisoners. In terms of challenges that the correctional service faces and stands to face in the coming years, then the latitude accorded to prisoners is one of them. A person in prison can now sue the government for redress of grievances like any other person using the cruel and unusual punishments clause, the Eighth Amendment, the due process clause, and more other federal provisions such as the First Amendments speech and religious clauses. [Turner v. Safely]
Another challenge facing the correctional department of the US criminal justice system is overcrowding, accessing correctional service now is not an easy task. Many factors are to blame for increased rates of crimes and therefore many and many people are getting themselves in either of the many correctional facilities in the US. Factors such as terrorism, population increase, hard economic times, drug abuse, social aggression among others play a huge role in sending Americans on ‘holiday’ in correctional facilities. This figure is likely to compound in the coming years as the federal and states government seems to be obsessed on setting the economic path straight and less on expanding correctional facilities. [Savelsberg et al, 2004]
Again with the increase of the number of people in correctional facilities so does the influx of all kinds of diversities that characterizes the offenders, some are old others young, some are Muslims others Judaists, Christians, Buddhists, Pagans and Hindus, some are men others are women, some are blacks others are Latinos, Natives, Europeans, Asians, etc. To cater for all these varying diversities one needs extensive specialized training, a thing which is hard to implement due to financial constraints. [Savelsberg et al, 2004]
Today correctional facilities are characterized by abuse of the basic rights endowed to prisoners by the law. Rape of prisoners, assault by person guards or fellow inmates, the provision of sufficient health facilities is still poor, freedom of expression is still a fantasy, deprivation of religion materials and poor feeding and clothing services are big challenges to many correctional facilities. However, many jurisdictions are beginning to bring substantial changes, thanks to the work of human rights groups that work for prison rights. The future of corrections is therefore tipped for better, whereby the basic human rights will be provided to the prisoners, this will help to enhance a sense of remorsefulness among the prisoners and hence increase the probability of them becoming useful citizens.
Today we’ve witnessed groundbreaking changes in the correctional facilities such as conjugal visitation, education for inmates, and improving the wages for the workers employed in the prisons. All these will collectively help in making corrections more vibrant in the pursuant of its core objectives as provided for by the Fourteenth Amendment and the criminal justice system.
Fourteenth Amendment, U.S. Constitution, (2009). available at;http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/amendment14/17.html, accessed on March 20, 2009
Haymin, B. (2007). American Chronicle. “Conservatives Challenge Presidential power Grab, Demand Reforms to Restore checks and Balances.”, accessed March 21, 2009Liebermann, M. (2007). Restorative Justice: How it Works, London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, at 33, accessed on March 20, 2009Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471 (1972), accessed on March 20, 2009Turner v. safely, 482 U.S. 78 (1987), accessed on March 20, 2009US Secret Prisons, available at;https://www.punkconnect.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-11265.html, accessed March 21, 2009
Walker, S. (1992). Origins of the Contemporary Criminal Justice Paradigm: The American bar Foundation Survey, 1953-1969.” Justice Quarterly 9 (1), accessed March 21, 2009Savelsberg, J. J., Lara, L. C., Ryan, D. K. (2004). “Institutional Environments and Scholarly Work: American Criminology, 1951-1993.” Social Forces 82(4): p1275-1302, accessed March 21, 2009