The Department of Corrections is an agency of the state that is accountable for the supervision and management of convicted felons. It allows the protection of the community by operating safe, secure facilities that keep offenders under firm, fair practices. There is a wide range of treatment including educational and vocational programs that help the offenders become rehabilitated citizens.
Inmate work programs contribute considerably in preparing jail and prison inmates for life outside an institution by teaching them good work habits and interpersonal skills. Work programs throw in to inmates’ sense of achievement and self-esteem and often provide an opportunity to learn new skills. Inmate work programs also benefit correctional institutions and the public by providing needed services at low cost. Operational work programs can offer inmates an alternative to idleness and in so doing contribute to improved inmate morale.
Nearly all prison classification systems have evolved over the last two decades from very subjective means of classifying inmates to fairly objective systems. This progress toward objectivity has occurred mainly to avoid rampant discretion and to incorporate into classification instruments the philosophical and policy preferences significant to the agency. (Supermax Prisons)
The majority of jails use a single classification system for male and female inmates. Such gender-neutral classifications primarily focus on security risk and commonly use similar classification factors for both male and female inmates. One and the same needs assessment forms are typically used with no modification for female inmates. In local jails, the use of a single classification system may be more practical because of the short length of stay and consequent difficulty of treating long-term social needs. (Women in Jail)
Most jails adopt a single gender-neutral system without conducting the necessary research to examine its soundness on female samples. Existing gender-neutral systems appear to have a tendency to over classify women and to inadequately assess, and perhaps underestimate, female inmates’ needs. The provision of resources to female inmates such as housing, programs, and visitation often appears inadequate in male dominated jails. (Women in Jail)
The Department of Corrections maintains that convict labor is only a minor program within the larger system confinement and punishment of convicts. The Department of Corrections maintains that work in the institution is voluntary. But there are presently 80,000 inmates in the US employed in commercial activity. The US government program Federal Prison Industries (FPI) currently employs 21,000 inmates, making a wide variety of products—such as clothing, file cabinets, electronic equipment and military helmets—which are sold to federal agencies and private companies. FPI sales are $600 million annually and rising, with over $37 million in profits. (Whyte & Baker, 2000)
Industry and labor have long opposed the employment of prisoners for private sector and government production, in contention that it is unfair competition. These opponents have also been largely successful in keeping outside prison work limited. Nonetheless, this may not in fact have protected any jobs for ordinary citizens, because companies that employ federal and state inmates have sales contracts with state agencies that private competitors cannot bid against. In addition, labor organizations and private companies argue that some private firms employ inmate workers at salaries far below the minimum wage, providing unfair competition through reduced labor costs. (Prison Labour).
So as not to abuse prison labor, the state-run programs need to be more market-friendly and that they need to be financially self-sustaining. Steps need to be taken to address concerns that prisoners are not treated like slave labor and that they receive protection from mistreatment. There should be specific policy recommendations, including one that prison workers receive at least the minimum wage for their work. As protection to prison labor, inmate-produced products should be sold on the open market, not restricted to guaranteed purchase contracts with federal or state agencies. The existing restrictions on the interstate transportation of goods and services produced in state prisons should be lifted, allowing such products to effectively compete in the marketplace (Prison Labour).
Public Opinion and the Juvenile Justice
It is a basic tenet of democracy that the Judiciary should be independent and not subject to any influences (Independence of the Judiciary). Yet, what happens in most cases is that the public opinion rules including sensationalizing of media.
During the past decades, America witnessed a continuous increase in its crime rate. However, the cause of greater concern is that crimes committed by minors, both violent and non-violent offenses also reached exorbitant numbers as compared with the previous decades. The State Commission on Criminal Sentencing policy presented the facts in the era of 1980s and 1990s when the increase of juvenile arrests rose at an alarming pace, “the arrest of youths under age 15 for violent crimes grew 94 percent from 1980-1985 twice as fast as violent crime arrests for 15-,16-, and 17- year olds” (Cohn)
The year with the highest juvenile arrest happened in 1993. 3, 800 were arrested for murder while other offenses include aggravated assault, robbery and forcible rape cases as well. This swiftly prompted an action from the government; forty-five states created reforms in their policies to address the crisis. The product are sets of policies aimed to make convicted juveniles more accountable for their actions at the same time rehabilitating the young offenders in hope that someday, they will live normal lives as respected and decent citizens of the country.
The reform measure taken by most states is called the ‘blended sentencing’. Prior to this, judges had limited options. When dealing with a child accused of serious felony, a child can either retain the case at juvenile court or he/she pass it over to the adult system.
Blended sentences on the other hand allow a judge to simultaneously impose a juvenile disposition and an adult sentence.
Also traditionally, the juvenile justice system is centered on rehabilitation. Part of the principle is that, the child convicted in this court will not receive the same harsher punitive standards and sentences administered in adult criminal court. With blended sentence, “the youth convicted of a crime will be sentenced to time in the juvenile justice sentence and then once he is older will be transferred to the adult system if authorities decide he should not be released” (Pierce)
There are some variations in blended sentencing policies applied by different states. The first one is the juvenile-exclusive blend where the juvenile court gives either a juvenile or adult sanction (New Mexico). Juvenile-inclusive blend where the juvenile court gives both sanctions, but typically the adult sentence is suspended upon proper fulfillment of juvenile sanctions (MI, MN, CO, KS, MT). Juvenile-contiguous blend where the juvenile court sentences offenders to serve their juvenile sentence and then their adult sentence (CO, TX, SC, MA). Criminal-exclusive blend, where the adult criminal court gives either juvenile or criminal sanctions (CA, FL, OK, VA, ID). Lastly, the criminal-inclusive blend where the adult criminal court gives both juvenile and criminal sanctions, usually suspending the latter (Jones and Connelly).
The policy earned many positive feedbacks. Judges were given the option “for fashioning dispositions that are more offense based, that is, to take account other individual circumstances as well as the current offense” (Jones andConnelly). The state is able to impose strict, adult sanctions without losing rehabilitative focus, on the young adults who committed heinous crimes. And in some states, a provision to extend juvenile courts’ jurisdiction from the age of 21 to 25 was added to allow for the continuation of rehabilitation or treatment of the person as needed,
On the other hand, the policy also earned quite a share of criticisms. “These statutory exclusions have ‘widened the net’ allowing a large number of less serious juveniles to be waived to criminal court and processed by adult correctional services” asserts Jones and Connelly. In 1998, about 700 juveniles have been admitted to adult prison compared to 3500 in 1985; one in ten juveniles incarcerated will be sent to an adult prison. Another impact is the increased workloads of the probation and correctional facilities that provide services for the troubled youth.
The Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families stressed some recommendation regarding the treatment of juvenile crimes and blended sentencing:
First is to identify well-documented program, services, and treatment efforts to reduce violence. … Second [is that] children between ages 10-13 who commit serious violent crimes should be held only until the age 25 . . .They argue that the idea should be to identify the causes of their heinous acts . . . and prevent them from committing offenses again. . Those children aged 10-13 should not be involved in blended sentences because they need different emotional, mental, physical and developmental same thinking capabilities (Jones and Connelly).
In general, the impacts of blended sentencing is said to be not yet fully evaluated.
The issue that judges are following the sentencing recommendations in predisposition reports most of the time does prove that judges are abdicating their duties in this regard. In Arkansas, there is a law that allows circuit judges to send an offending youth directly to the Division of Youth Services rather than to prison, but this law is rarely used. That is why Arkansas has been described as a bended-sentence state. (Pierce).
Because of the possibility of an adult sentence by virtue of blended sentencing, the juvenile should be entitled to a jury trial. It is mandated in the constitution of this country that any person being tried at a criminal court should be entitled to a jury trial. From the Doctrine of Parens Patria, which refers to “the State’s legal role as the guardian to protect the interests of children who can not take care of themselves” (Parens Patriae), the government should act on behalf of the juveniles who are still regarded as ‘incompetent people’. The federal jurisdiction subjected upon the citizens by virtue of Parens Patriae decrees the role of the State as sovereign and guardian of persons under legal disability. Thus, from the dictum, “the children belongs to the STATE” hence, it is the state’s duty to ensure these juveniles a fair, and just trial which is through a jury trial.
It is also, therefore, important that logistical problems for juvenile courts be addressed, problems like lack of jury boxes and other infrastructures. More important than the courts are the correctional institutions that would house the convicted young adult. Are they adequately provided, especially in terms of treatments to juveniles? The United States government has been recently implementing partial privatization of correctional systems. To some, this does not offer a very good prospect with the idea that private institutions are after the profit that will be generated from costs cutting. According to Judith Greene, a criminal justice policy analyst and privatization critic, there is a significant data showing that private prison poses more hazard for both inmates and prison employees. Because of the effort to keep labor cost low, prison security is sacrificed. She reported that Justice Department analysts discovered that there is a fifty percent higher risk of assault by inmates on staff in private prisons, and sixty percent higher rate of assaults among fellow inmates
Some government agencies that are promoting the government agencies, universities, auditors and research institution conducted several researches on private and public prison systems, and they confirm that the quality of the private facilities as food or even better that of the government-run penitentiaries. These studies claim that they used serious, academic methods and sound methodological approaches in comparing the two facilities. Adrian Moore, the executive director of the Reason Public Policy Institute and Segal, director of Privatization and Government Reform Policy, examined 28 government and institutional studies comparing public and private prisons. The findings state that 22 of the private prisons are able to reduce significantly their costs resulting to larger savings and that the facilities of the private “facilities fared well against government run prisons in almost every measure of administrative quality, including independent accreditation, contract termination and renewals, and the extent of court orders and litigation by prisoners.” (Bourge).
The 14th Amendment clearly specifies that “[no] state [shall] deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws…” (Beckmann a) This is further revitalized in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which actively seeks punishment for any form of discrimination in the public sphere.
Looking at the way the U.S. Supreme Court has decided on Jay Shawn Johnson v. California, there is a chance that the main complaint in this case would be favorably heard. First, the U.S. Supreme Court has evolved significantly in terms of their views of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. They have been quite responsive to the changing needs of the law in terms of interpreting precedent cases. This is what happened in the case of Jay Shawn Johnson v. California (Richey). There is also a need to look at one possible direction of the decision. The Plessy v. Fergusson case, despite the presence of effective protection of the constitution against discrimination was still decided in favor of the segregation using the doctrine of ‘separate but equal.’ It took years before the court reversed this decision through the Brown v. Board of Education (Beckmann a). This means that the court may still rule against the man. This is because the court through the years have been making honest mistakes in judgment and would later on reversed this judgment given that new perspectives arise regarding the issue.
Parole System and the Reform Model
A punitive model of justice is based on the perception that punishment like incarceration is an effective means of providing justice for the victims. The main frame of argument is that infliction of pain or suffering is the morally justifiable means of making the offender pay for the crime that they have committed. The reformatory system of corrections on the other hand assumes that men could be reformed and, therefore, it is important that incarceration should also include training and education of offenders. Part indeed of the reform model of the justice system includes a system of behavioral improvements that would give the offender a chance to shorten their prison terms (Telarow). Thus, parole was born with the intention of integrating them back to the society with a changed attitude and behavior.
The development of the concept of the parole system started in the late 19th century when reformers started to adopt rehabilitative system of justice. At this time, changes in the sentencing occurred. Sentencing started to include possibilities of shortened term through improvements in behavior. Offenders who are able to satisfy the conditions of the system are given ‘ticket of leave,’ which could be revoked if they failed to comply with the rules (Telarow). The period of 1920s to 1970s witnessed the introduction of indeterminate sentencing system, which is based on the belief that offenders could be rehabilitated. This indeterminate sentencing system gives a minimum and a maximum length of sentencing to cover for possible early release for reintegration into the society. Criticisms were thrown into the system in lieu of the too much power given to the parole boards and judges on the length of sentence. Most of the time, this discretion has a tendency to be biased on race. Conservatives also believe that rehabilitation is not often possible as crime rates remained in very high levels. The result is that each state started to innovate on parole system and new ideas are thus developed to improve the parole system (Behind the Prison Gates…).
Despite the changes in the parole system, the objectives remained the same. First, it aims to prepare the offender on the eventual release from the prisoner. Through the parole, the prisoner’s social functioning is prepared in order for them not to lose in touch with the necessary functioning in the community they live. Secondly, it aims to socialize the offender on the kinds of behavior that is acceptable in the society. It hopes that the prisoner’s behavior would enable him to reconnect to the community (Behind the Prison Gates…).
The goals of reintegration could be achieved through a very significant agency called The Parole Board. The parole board is an agency of the executive branch, which helps in processing and deciding on the conditions of parole and the offenders who would be given the parole. The parole board hears the application of prisoners appealing for parole release. Part of the procedure is that the prisoner would present documents that would illustrate his active participation in the programs, his personal reflections on the experience of prison and any disciplinary actions that were served against the offender. The parole board then assesses the ability of the prisoner to go back into the free society. In addition to this, the parole board also attempts to assess the future of the prisoner, particularly assessing factors that may increase the risk of recidivism. After the application is approved, the parole board would also function as monitor of the offender. In this case, they would assess the compliance of the offender to the conditions of parole. Should the prisoner violate essential conditions, then they can be recommended to be returned to the prison (Behind the Prison Gates…).
The external society provides the perfect avenue for healing as it reflects a newer and better perspective for the prisoner. This is also very helpful in making the community realize the positive impact of reform model in the quality of life that the offender lives and exercises. This is also very important in order to slowly eradicate the social stigma attached to an offender.
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