here's my final paper...
Modern criminal sentencing in the United States generally follows, to some degree, three different philosophies: retribution, containment, and rehabilitation. Although every criminal system exhibits characteristics of each philosophy, they differ greatly in their emphasis and priorities among the three. The system that most effectively reduces the recurrence of criminal offenses is not one that is based solely on any one of the three philosophies, but rather, the advantages of each philosophy must be applied in the right balance to each particular case.
Retribution is the most traditional of the three, and serves as the basis of the judicial systems of most ancient civilizations and many modern societies. The ideas of "eye for an eye" and having the "punishment fit the crime" are situated at the foundation of traditional values. The primary method by which this policy reduces criminal offenses is by instilling fear in the population of the punishment. It also gives the victims of the crimes and third parties the greatest sense of justice being served. One of the disadvantages of this method is that it relies upon the potential offender to seek a viable alternative to committing the offense, but it is the most cost-effective way of "keeping honest people honest."
Containment is also a very widely followed philosophy that very well established. It possesses, in itself, some aspects of retribution in that it is a punishment, but the main idea of containment is that a person cannot commit a crime while imprisoned. However, containment is a very expensive punishment for the taxpayers. In the recent War on Drugs, containment was used as the primary method of punishment. Consequently, the number of sentenced prisoners for drug offenses increased 478% from 1983 to 1995 to account for 60% of inmates of federal prisons, causing extreme pressure on prison capacity. Containment does remove potential offenders from the further opportunities, but it cannot be used as a permanent solution as prison populations, and costs, would explode.
Instead, containment should be used to hold offenders temporarily as they learn to change their ways. Containment recognizes an inherent flaw in the retribution process in that lifestyles and habits cannot change instantaneously. A swift punishment, however severe, is still more easily dismissed or forgotten than a punishment that is reinforced over time. Unfortunately containment also does not recognize that in many cases, the convicted person may not be able to find a viable alternative.
Rehabilitation is a relatively new philosophy for criminal justice and is based upon trying to actively change the lifestyle of the offender. Because it is designed to prevent an offender from committing future offenses, it should be the most effective in reducing crime. However, rehabilitation is something that must be very carefully designed in order to be effective and is not necessarily significantly effective in a number of instances. The greatest controversy over whether rehabilitation is effective is the debate about whether the majority of offenders commit crimes because they do not understand right from wrong or because they simply choose not to obey the laws. Also, some people view offenders as not being responsible enough to make intelligent decisions when they decide to break the law. Of these groups, the rehabilitation approach's effectiveness is limited mostly to those who do not know better or do not know another path. Even then, I do not believe this to be a great limitation to rehabilitation. First, a great proportion of those 60% of inmates convicted for drug offenses fall in this category. Rehabilitation is the most effective for this group of people because drug addiction is considered to be an illness, and many of those people would like to become drug-free but cannot. Also, those who partake in organized crime or have been raised in a lifestyle where crime has been the norm also have much to gain from rehabilitation. Already, the number of people who would be positively affected by rehabilitation includes a very significant portion or the convicted population.
One of the most important things to remember is that the effectiveness of rehabilitation is greatly reduced when used alone. As many critics have pointed out, rehabilitation can does not provide the feeling of justice to victims of violent crimes and far more lenient than the other philosophies. However, rehabilitation was never intended to replace retribution and containment as a unilateral weapon against crime. Like the other two, rehabilitation is more effective towards specific types of offenses and is less effective against others. Also, offenses such as violent crimes, rehabilitation would be completely toothless without either retribution or containment to provide incentive for change.
Thus when applying these concepts to the US Judicial System, no one philosophy of criminal sentencing should be used exclusively. Nor should any philosophy take precedence over another, since no sentence comes at the expense of another. Instead the three methods of sentences should be used in conjunction so as to utilize their individual advantages in each specific case. To provide some examples, in the case of violent crimes, retribution must be used to provide justice to the victims and the criminal. Together with containment, these two also serve to provide a strong incentive against repeated offenses. Containment needs to be used to reinforce this over time, and in cases where it clear that the convict either does not know how to change or has no viable means of changing, rehabilitation may be used to finish out the sentence. In the case of drug or alcohol abuse, the majority of the sentencing should based upon rehabilitation because for the majority of cases, offenders are unable to change their ways because of addiction and because they may have grown accustomed to their lifestyles. Also, since drug and alcohol use in itself does not infringe upon the liberties of others, harsh retribution is not needed unless other offenses were also committed. Containment may also be used to force the offender to begin withdrawing from addiction. Other crimes include such misdemeanors as theft, embezzlement, and fraud, which are crimes, which are always committed willingly and when other alternatives are clearly available. In these cases, rehabilitation is nearly useless, and only retribution and containment should be used to discourage future occurrences, especially since offenders of these crimes often have much to lose through these sentences. These examples should cover the vast majority of cases and set a precedent for most others. Of course, there will always be special cases that do not fit the general guidelines, but such events should not serve as the basis of general policies. These occasions would require special attention into their intricacies, but in all cases, the advantages of each method should be used for the optimal result.
Evaluation of melloyello's position paper by stellar205
Evaluation of melloyello's position paper by Ouf103
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