The United States has the highest prison rate in the world. Despite a consistent increase in the number of incarcerations around the world, the inmate population in the United States is around 500 inmates per 100,000 people. This is a very large population as compared to the global average of 100 inmates per 100,000 people (National Institute of Justice). According to the National Institute of Justice, nearly 70% of prisoners discharged from correctional institutions are rearrested within two to three years (National Institute of Justice). More than half of those released are rearrested during the first year. The high rate of recidivism raises concerns regarding the effectiveness of incarceration in prisoner rehabilitation. Therefore, it is critical to find alternative means to rehabilitate offenders as opposed to incarceration. The following paper explores the effectiveness of incarceration in prisoner rehabilitation and compares it with alternative rehabilitation methods for offenders such as probation, fines and home confinement especially for minor offenders or those who do not pose an immediate danger to the public.
The first and the most effective rehabilitation method which can be used in place of incarceration is probation. According to Frana and Schroender, probation is effective in the rehabilitation of offenders because as opposed to incarceration, it is possible to instill offenders with positive values since they are part of the community (Frana and Schroeder 9). In Addition, probation is cost effective and economically viable compared to incarceration because both the state and the federal governments spend less on the maintenance of the offenders. Secondly, the offenders continue to be productive since they can engage in economic activities under supervision. The community services which offenders under probation commit to are critical in developing good work ethics which minimizes the rate of recidivism. Besides, by interacting with other law abiding citizens, offenders are in a position to find their purposes and avoid engaging in illegal activities. Another reason why probation is a better alternative to incarceration is because offenders are subjected to harsher penalties if they violate the probation. This minimizes recidivism rate and at the same time gives the offenders an opportunity to reform unlike in incarceration.
As opposed to incarceration, home confinement especially for first-time offenders can easily reduce the high prisoner population in the United States and at the same time reduce the economic burden involved. Home confinement ensures that the offender is put in a selected area where their movement and behavior are monitored in order to protect the general public (Chamberlain and Reid. 4). Similar to incarceration, this method of rehabilitation ensures the safety of the public and the offender. This alternative to traditional incarceration came as an effective option after the advent of the electronic monitoring bracelet in 1983. Eligible offenders for home confinement are also allowed to seek employment and at the same time maintain family relationships and responsibilities. This minimizes the rate of broken family relations which come with the traditional incarceration. Secondly, offenders under home confinement are in a position to attend appropriate rehabilitation programs which enable them to be socially accepted and move on with their lives with ease after the program unlike in the traditional incarceration whereby released inmates end up relapsing to crime due to the inability to fit in the society.
Apart from probation and home confinement, fines should also be used more as a deterrence to offenders to reduce the rate of incarceration. Fines deter offenders from engaging in illegal behavior in future because the society in general places a high value on money. They are therefore likely to abide by the law in future for fear of losing more money in the future. In addition, since the fines are given according to the nature of the crime committed, it is possible to minimize or eliminate the existing discrimination in the justice system based on race, age, socioeconomic levels (Miethe, Troshynski and Hart. 10). However, critics of this rehabilitation method argue that the use if fines is not a fair alternative because it gives an upper hand to the wealthy population. Based on this knowledge, however, it is possible to come up with alternative means of punishing offenders who are not in a position to raise the stipulated fines. The alternative methods of rehabilitation are parallel to the fines and ensure that the offender undergoes a positive behavioral change.
The alternative sentencing to traditional incarceration including house arrest, fines and probation have proven to be effective both in facilitating rehabilitation and preventing recidivism. In addition, alternative sentencing has more social and economic advantages in that offenders are still able to interact with the community and engage in economic activities and acquire positive mentorship since it teaches responsibility and dependency. Furthermore, government’s financial burden which comes with incarceration will also reduce significantly with alternative sentencing. These methods also reduced overcrowding of correctional facilities and reserving them for violent offenders. Currently, most of the correction facilities lack basic requirements such as exercise facilities, air conditioning systems, oxygen and space which predisposes both the inmates and the prison staff to extreme conditions.
Chamberlain, Patricia and John B. Reid. ” Comparison of two community alternatives to incarceration for chronic juvenile offenders.” Journal of consulting and clinical psychology 66.4 (1998): 624.
Frana, John and Ryan D. Schroeder. “Alternatives to incarceration.” Justice Policy Journal (2008): 1-32.
Miethe, Terance D, Emily I. Troshynski and Timothy C. Hart. ” Social conditions and cross-national imprisonment rates: Using set-theoretic methods for theory testing and identifying deviant cases .” Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice (2017).
National Institute of Justice. “Recidivism.” 2017.