A number of people commit crimes daily in the various states and cities in the United States. Some of these crimes are of misdemeanor, whereas some can be categorized as felony cases. The varying complexity of these cases alters the approach and time it takes the investigating and prosecuting agencies to deliver a verdict. Moreover, it is imperative that people whose offences are pending investigations and those whose investigations are complete and verdict delivered be confined in separate places. This has led to the development of the jails and the treatment programs in order to cater for those varying needs of the offenders.
Jails and why they are Necessary
The understanding of jails is that of a secured facility within a jurisdiction and under the management of the states that serving as a place where people who have been arrested of various offences are held. The offences can range from arrests from various crimes such as dangerous driving, driving vehicles with expired licenses, and other misdemeanor cases. In the jails, the confined individuals are often held pending sentencing, trial, plea agreements and those waiting to be transferred to other prisons. It can also hold people such offenders upon conviction, provided they are convicted to serve prison sentences of less than a year. The jails continue to play a critical role in the society in several ways helping serve the interests of the community and the state through the criminal justice department.
Jails are considered as the institutions that are critical in the effective functioning of the criminal justice system. According to (Blomberg, Brancale, Beaver & Bales, 2016) jails are the first process in the criminal justice system, where offenders are taken after arrests. Through the jails, the offenders can then enter or leave the criminal justice system and in this way it has significant impact on the community. According to the authors the jails impact the community in many perspectives. It serves as a mean through which the offenders are confined pending their trial. Since offences vary in degree of severity, jails serves as a means through which such offenders can be confined for the safety of the offended and the community, pending the hearing and determination of their cases. Although some people who are arrested are released from the jails on plea bargaining, this ensures that their offences remain under scrutiny.
Lurigio (2015) also points that as local institutions the jails play a critical in the community by serving the medical and behavioral needs of the community. The jails are the detention centers for offenders who sentence terms that do not exceed a year. These state jails provide a mechanism through which the offender behavior can be altered in addition to meeting their medical needs. When offenders enter the jails, they serve their jail terms with the hope that their behavior will change through the confinement and the various initiatives within the confines of the jails. The psychological counseling programs and job placements are f great importance in shaping the offenders behaviors. This ensures that upon their releases, such people have a better chance of living a productive life owing to the job skills and behavioral help offered in the jails, thus ensuring a more secure community.
However, in spite of the important role that jails play in the community, there have been many concerns regarding the states of jails in the country. The policy shift from indeterminate to determinate sentencing has had varied implications on the jails. The one implication that is of great concern is the challenge of overcrowding in the state jails. According to (Blomberg, Brancale, Beaver & Bales, 2016; Lurigio, 2015) many state jails enjoy the highest offender traffic. The United States jails process many number offenders on daily basis, which is estimated at over 12 million admissions every year. According to the authors, the daily admissions in the United States jails stood at close to 800,000 per day as of 2014. The determinate policy led to development of punitive measures that rescinded the discretions that were enjoyed by the judges. The offenders who entered the state jails under the indeterminate policy had the opportunity to be afforded the reduce prison terms under the discretions of the judges. The indeterminate policies afforded the offenders with the chance to have reduced jails terms based on the offence and the risk of recidivism.
The other policy measure that has had a direct influence on the increase in the state jail traffic is the rescinding of the parole. Given that majority of offenders in state jails are of misdemeanor cases, they can be released and placed under the parole supervision. However, this was rescinded and replaced by punitive and determinate prison sentences (Blomberg, Brancale, Beaver & Bales, 2016). This meant that even the cases that the otherwise defunct parole board would have placed under the supervision in parole are now forced to go to trial and upon conviction specific jail terms are determined that is to be spend in jail. Parole not only afforded offenders with the reduced sentence terms, but also ensured that the offenders who had low risk towards recidivism were allowed to work under confines of the law under parole supervision. This reduced the sentence terms and the time spend in jails. The move to the more punitive criminal justice system evidence in the policy shift removed the parole which has led to large offender traffic in state jails. This increase in state jail offender traffic has had negative impact on the funding of the state prisons. In addition, the combination elimination of parole and the introduction of determinate sentencing have led to increased overcrowding in the state jails.
The major rationale behind the policy shift towards the determinate and the parole elimination was to reduce crime rates through more stringent prison terms. According to (Baker, Falco Metcalfe, Berenblum, Aviv & Gertz, 2014) the increase in crimes in the 1960s in the United States initiated a political movement towards tough stance towards crime. The policy change was further influenced by media presentations, possible racial bias and the generally fear amng the population towards crime. Despite these policy changes, little is known about the effectiveness of these policies, instead it has led to mass incarceration. Cadora (2013) reports that the only instances that the punitive policy shifts led to the reduction in crime rates in the United States are the 2010, 2011, and 2012 periods. The conclusion that be drawn from this is that rehabilitative policies are much more effective than punitive measures as suggested in (Baker, Falco Metcalfe, Berenblum, Aviv & Gertz, 2014) who reports increased public support and reduction in recidivism.
Although the American jails are facing problems of overcrowding and inadequate funding, they remain very important elements of the country’s criminal justice system. These problems affecting the state jails are just a product of the punitive and sentencing policies that were introduced, which saw the elimination of the parole boards. Increased rehabilitation of the offenders through the community treatment centers and other forms of punishment can be critical in solving these problems.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Treatment Programs
The offender treatment programs are mostly education-based and have been designed in order to help the offender to eliminate their problem behaviors, attitudes and or teach those skills that are useful in their lives (Grady, Edwards & Pettus-Davis, 2016). An example offender treatment program is the Sex Offender Accountability and Rehabilitation (SOAR) Program. The major goals of the treatment programs are to reduce the offender risks towards re-offending. They are based on the premise that the offenders will have an interest in the treatment information, understand it benefits, and employ the benefits to change their behaviors and improve their circumstance. The use of the offender treatment programs is associated with several advantages and disadvantages.
The major advantage of the treatment programs is that they are comparatively cheaper in the long-term compared to the imprisonment. The major goal of the treatment programs is the elimination or the reduction of recidivism. It impacts are long-term and are more effective and less costly compared to prisoners who do not undergo treatment programs as they have higher chances of re-offending. Given that the costs of maintaining prisons and prisoners have increased over the years due to increased incarceration, treatment programs offers a better alternative to incarceration or incapacitation.
The other advantages of offender treatment programs are that they are effective and have been hailed for reduction in recidivism. For example, Grady, Edwards & Pettus-Davis (2016) reprted a significant reduction in non-violent recidivism among the sexual offenders enrolled in the SOAR program. The other advantages are that the treatment programs provide a mechanism of peer interaction especially in group treatment, which has been hailed of being as powerful as the one-on-one patient therapeutic interaction (Abadinsky, 2008). Moreover, the presence of many treatment tools such as SOAR and twelve-step make the use of treatment programs much easier.
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Although the treatment programs have some advantages, the use of these offender programs also poses some limitations. According to (Grady, Edwards & Pettus-Davis, 2016) the treatment programs are based on the assumptions that the offenders will be interested in the treatment information and that they would use the same in their behavior and attitude change. However, the traditional goal of the offender treatment programs have been shown to have low appeal to the offenders as some of the offenders may show lack of interest or may view them as irrelevant. In addition, these treatment programs have been associated with reduced treatment completion and outcomes. This is true especially when the targeted offenders show little engagement in the programs. The other disadvantages is that they can be costly to hire and maintain professionals specialized in the specific programs, and some of the programs can nly apply to offenders of certain level of education and may not be employed among the juvenile offender is lower levels of education and in need of such treatments.