Personal freedom in the United States

Discuss the delicate balance between homeland security and personal freedom in the United States. Is that balance currently being achieved? There is no easy answer to this question. But it is important to take note that the homeland security is a reaction to America’s vulnerability to violent individuals, groups, or nations that might attack American interests with technological devices or weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Hence, generally the homeland security act is for national freedom. But a question of delicate balance arises when talks about personal freedom.

Perhaps, this is due to some groups, such as the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) who fears that these acts may somehow limit personal freedom, such as the right of free speech, right of self incrimination, right of due process and right of illegal search and seizure. These concerns of ACLU as a renown interest group that focuses on protecting human rights and particularly constitutional rights of American citizens, have achieved the balance between homeland security and personal freedom in the United States. Can the goals of incarceration (custody) and rehabilitation be accomplished simultaneously?

If so, how? If not, which do you see as the most important goal and why? Personally, I believe that incarceration and rehabilitation can be accomplished simultaneously. My argument is that incarceration should be aimed toward the future, not the past. When we say, “Don’t cry over spilled milk,” we mean that it does very little good after the milk is spilled to cry about it. The milk should be cleaned up, and precautions should be taken so that no more milk will be spilled in the future. If this requires punishing the offender for being careless, being reckless, or even intentionally spilling the milk, so be it.

But it would not make much sense to punish the milk-spiller simply to get even with him or her. It would not get the floor clean (unless the punishment included cleaning the floor), it would not increase the likelihood that more milk would not be wasted in the future, and it might even be detrimental or destructive to the future of the milkspiller, particularly if the punishment far exceeded the act. We wouldn’t want to do anything that would make it more likely that the milk-spiller would spill more milk in the future, would we?

Our system of punishment should be future-based, aimed at crime prevention, and rooted in utilitarianism. Utilitarianism (based on the writings of John Stuart Mill, for example) holds that actions should be aimed at doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Some of what we do may ideally be based on utilitarian goals of crime prevention through deterrence, but in my experiences and observations, most of what we do in the United States is to punish criminals, hence it is mainly based on retribution, which is backward looking: It aims to get even with the offender for past wrongs.

Therefore, I could say that the methods of punishment available to the U. S. network of criminal justice are not being best utilized to achieve the goals of sentencing. Walker (1998, p. 203) explains that we must, at least to some degree, still be committed to rehabilitation, because we still call the facilities that punish offenders “corrections” (which suggests that we hope to correct their behavior). Public opinion polls of Americans show that there is widespread support for rehabilitation, treatment, and crime prevention as alternatives to punitiveness (Roberts and Stalans 2000).

The typical prisoner, as you have seen, is not a repetitive, violent criminal. Rather, he or she (most likely “he”) is typically a property or drug offender. Slightly less than half of Irwin and Austin’s (1997, p. 40) sample of incarcerated prisoners were characterized as “career criminals. ” Of those who were, about 60% were imprisoned for what Americans view as “petty crimes. ” Of the 25% of their sample who were serving lengthy sentences, many did not warrant these sentences on the basis of the relative nonseriousness of their offenses.

Thus, Irwin and Austin (1997, p.57) write: “Most crimes are much pettier than the popular images promoted by those who sensationalize the crime issue (such as politicians and the media). More than half of the persons sent to prison committed crimes that lacked any of the features the public believes compose a serious crime. ” Even the high-risk inmates, the career criminals, are typically uneducated, unskilled, and underemployed. From public poll results, Irwin and Austin claim that if Americans knew this, they would not likely support the massive use of incarceration as a means to reduce crime.

As Irwin and Austin (1997, p. 62) explain, “Because most will be released within two years, we should be deeply concerned about what happens to them during their incarceration. ” We have to decide, as states and as a nation, what we think is most important—punishing offenders to get retribution or preventing their future crimes. If we want to make inmates mad at society and want to create a sense of vengeance in them, we should continue doing what we are doing. If we want them to become part of legitimate U. S. society, we must witness a change of direction in punishment.