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The Impact of Incarceration and Rehabilitation on Society Paper Sample

The main theme of this research project is the analysis of the incarceration and rehabilitation. This work includes the discussion of the important elements that can help to understand the essence and consequences of these processes. The topic has been chosen because the problem is interesting to explore. To complete the study, only scholar administrative law resources have been applied in order to provide clear and proven information. The aim of the research is to analyze the strengths of incarceration and rehabilitation and their impact on society.

Incomparable analysis and cognitive synthesis have been used to conduct it that has helped to divide the material into several units and to distinguish their general characteristics. Consequently, one has been able to define process is the most effective and appropriate for the community.


The theme of jail, living conditions of prisoners, justice, punishment and sense of deprivation of liberty has become one of the key topics of public debate. Crime and punishment are inextricably linked and seem inseparable. No one doubts that a person who has violated the law should be denounced and punished. However, some scholars have concluded that the rehabilitation of convicts will be more useful for the society. In fact, the procedures of incarceration and rehabilitation have their strengths and weaknesses and, thus, different effect on prisoners. Therefore, the goal of this essay is to analyze both phenomena and their influence.

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The Essence of Incarceration

Incarceration for a certain period is one of the main forms of punishment which consists in the isolation of the convict from the community. Judges set deadline, and the individual is sent to a colony, medical correctional institution or prison (Anderson, 2014). This kind of penalty is one of the most rigorous and most common in the legislative practice. Its significance lies in the fact that the most dangerous criminals are isolated from the society and placed in special correctional institutions which considerably limit the possibility of committing new crimes during the term of serving the sentence (Anderson, 2014). Besides, such conditions create opportunities for the organization of measures aimed at their re-socialization.

Imprisonment has a number of specific features, reasons and objectives (Anderson, 2014). Firstly, it reminds the revenge for the caused evil, and the victim delegates the right to execute it to the State. However, revenge makes the victim feel bloodlust and causes resentment among criminals, and does not bring benefits to anyone. From this point of view, the punishment under consideration is equivalent to the action when a person burns a house, and a victim causes physical harm to the offender (Anderson, 2014).

Furthermore, it is believed that incarceration carries an element of edification, preventing citizens from the attempts to violate the law. However, this seemingly positive aspect is a moot point (Anderson, 2014). In the information age, the society is not in need of such moralizing as it will not stop a potential criminal.
Another purpose of the punishment can be re-education. Nevertheless, this idea is also controversial. State evinces contempt for the offender in various ways, and the imprisonment is the most common but one should remember that the respect for the laws is unreal under such circumstances.

The Strengths of Incarceration

Deprivation of liberty as any other penalty shall be applied in order to restore social justice as well as to change the convicted person and prevent the commission of further crimes. In this context, the punishment is a fair process. There are several positions that represent the strengths of incarceration (Hinton, 2009).

The first advantage and aim of imprisonment is restoring social justice.

The state partially reimburses the caused damage with fine, confiscation of property, and labor. Thus, citizens are convinced that the public authorities are able to provide criminal penalty and punish offenders according to the law based on rational and socio-psychological reasons. Besides, people could realize that the state takes into account the principles of effectiveness, proportionality, and humanity. Moreover, individuals restore social justice by protecting the legitimate interests and rights that are violated by crime (Hinton, 2009). To sum up, punishment should provide compensation for harm and the proportionality of the deprivation or restriction of the rights and freedoms of the convicted person with victim’s suffering. As for the rehabilitation, it can cause indignation in the society and the feelings of the lack of social justice.

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The second strength is a special prevention, and it is aimed at a convicted person.

The fact of committing a crime indicates the presence of criminogenic personality traits of the offender, which means that there is a probability of his repeating the illegal behavior in the future, and the state cannot ignore such a situation (Hinton, 2009). The government holds to the idea of changing the offender to replace the negative features by the positive ones. Thus, the purpose of punishment is the correction of the convict, and his training as a law-abiding citizen. Besides, it is believed that persons will not commit a crime at least out of fear of penalty. In contrast, rehabilitation cannot bring such an effect, and the convict may feel impunity.

The next plus is the general prevention.

This process is the warning to people not to commit crimes (Hinton, 2009). The fact is that among the law-abiding citizens, there is a category of individuals who, in the form of administrative, disciplinary, and immoral acts, demonstrate the ability to perform serious crimes. Due to the publicity of trials and the availability of court verdicts to the public testifying to the inevitability of punishment, such people will think first before they take a weapon (Pager, 2008). Contrary to incarceration, rehabilitation cannot have any effect on a potential criminal, and could even motivate them to violate laws.

The fourth function of imprisonment is retribution.

This goal is inherent in any punishment. In fact, the essence of every kind of penalty is deprivation or restriction of rights, and changing the usual conditions of existence in the direction of their tightening. This transition causes suffering, and the feeling of the retaliation (Pager, 2008). The doctrine of national criminal law determines that the retribution, however, is not an end in itself, but a means of achieving the goal of correction of condemned by intimidation. However, in the case of serial criminals and terrorists, the incarceration is the only way out, and rehabilitation is the unacceptable approach (Pager, 2008).

The Conditions of Incarceration Effectiveness

As it has already been stated, historically, the first and most common measure of crime prevention is incarceration. Its proponents believe that it has a threefold effect. In fact, imprisonment allows isolating the people who have committed a crime, intimidating those who are just going to perpetrate it, and reducing the fear of potential victims or people who have become victims of criminal acts. Consequently, the crime rate can be decreased by introducing stricter penalties for crimes. An example of the positive impact of the incarceration is the arrest of the perpetrators of domestic violence (Cole & Smith, 2007). Furthermore, the results of the US studies have shown that this measure reduces the likelihood of recurrence of different crimes, increases the faith of victims in the law, develops their sense of security, and improves life satisfaction (Cole & Smith, 2007).

However, years of research have shown that criminal punishment reduces crime rates only under certain conditions. In the first place, it really has to be strict enough (Cole & Smith, 2007). Secondly, it should be inevitable, thus, a potential offender must assume that if he commits a crime, it is sure that he will be punished. Thirdly, people should understand that the commission of the offense would not allow them to achieve the desired goal. Otherwise, the illegal act will be repeated. Fourthly, there should be no social support for breaking the law (Scraton & McCulloch, 2008). If people around consider illegal act normal and even an effective way to reach the target, the formal sanctions will not be able to eliminate their influence. Finally, the penalty has a greater influence on the behavior of people who do not have their own system of moral norms, especially those who are at the first level of moral development (Cole & Smith, 2007). Thus, the introduction of strict sanctions for violation of the law that are not accompanied by additional terms and conditions will not lead to a decrease in the crime rate.

Additional difficulties arise if the punishment is associated with a long prison term (Scraton & McCulloch, 2008). Incarceration significantly alters the perception of the person, violates habitual way of life, and requires adjustment to new life conditions. Besides, it involves human immersion in the criminal subculture, the adoption of its rules, including changes in legal consciousness (Scraton & McCulloch, 2008). Finally, the long isolation destroys individual’s communication with family and friends, limits the ability of adaptation to the world outside the prison after release.

The Statistics Concerning the Effectiveness of Incarceration

The scientists who have studied the prisoners relapse after jail have found that the experimental remedial technologies, which in theory should significantly reduce the likelihood of recurrent criminal behavior, work in the other way. The Department of Correctional Pennsylvania system has organized study of relapse statistics trying to identify the roots of this phenomenon (Travis & Waul, 2003). Pennsylvania is just one of the 50 states, but it is safe to assume that it represents the USA as it is one of the largest in terms of population and the sixth largest with regard to the US GD, and a number of other economic indicators (Travis & Waul, 2003). The scientists have considered a relapse in two intersecting planes. The first type is the re-arrest or imprisonment within a period of one, two or three years after release. Regardless of the final punishment, it has turned out that six out of the 10 convicts committed a new offense within three years after leaving the prison (Travis & Waul, 2003). Interestingly, men return on the criminal path more often (Scraton & McCulloch, 2008). With age, the likelihood of recurrence reduces, and if an individual has criminal record, it rises. In this study, crimes have been divided into four groups such as violence, crimes against property, drug-related and those against public order (Scraton & McCulloch, 2008). It has been discovered that in most cases, all repeat offenders commit violations of the type already familiar to them. For instance, every fourth person from the second group committed the same illegal act after the release (Scraton & McCulloch, 2008).


The Essence of Rehabilitation

The idea of rehabilitation is based on the supposition that offensive actions happen due to different reasons. This point of view does not deny that individuals settle on decisions to violate the law; however, it asserts that these decisions are not a free choice. In fact, individuals are affected by their mental state, biologic features, and social environment (Robinsin & Crow, 2009). To illustrate the idea one can say that people with antisocial conditions of development will probably try to make offensive actions and crimes more often than those who live in the favorable surroundings (Robinsin & Crow, 2009). The rehabilitation concept works only when a criminal conducts crimes regularly under the influence of some factors. When offensive actions are made based on free will, there is nothing to change (Robinsin & Crow, 2009). Thus, if an illegal act is made with the impact of different components, some social measures could help to correct the offender’s traits and reduce the possibility of relapse. Such a situation could occur in regions with low social culture where people consider criminal conduct as a normal phenomenon.

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Besides, rehabilitation can be compared to the medical treatment. When individuals are physically sick, the reasons for their disease are analyzed and cured (Stevens, 2012). Each person’s health problems might be distinctive, and consequently, the treatment is not similar. Furthermore, people with the same sickness may require different pharmaceuticals and time of treatment. Correctional rehabilitation has similar features. Causes of offensive behavior are different; therefore, researches often compare the process of rehabilitation to treatment (Stevens, 2012). In fact, rehabilitation institute in criminal law meets the purpose of criminal proceedings which is expressed not only in the protection of the rights and interests of individuals and organizations, but the protection of the individual against illegal and unwarranted accusation, conviction and restriction of rights and freedoms. Therefore, the procedure is meant to help society and offenders. Social organizations could take care of convicts, prevent criminal actions, and provide appropriate life to them (Stevens, 2012). Consequently, rehabilitation seeks to reduce the criminal threat and, thus, protect the community.

The Strengths of Rehabilitation

The topic of the influence of criminal punishment has a number of contradictions. Many scientists have claims about harm of incarceration and benefits of rehabilitation. In fact, in most cases, state deliberately delegates a citizen into a criminal environment, with the relevant laws and psychology, and calls it correction believing that people should become free respectable law-abiding persons when they stay in unnatural living conditions and without communication with relatives. In the context of the reality of the world, it is unreal (Sechrest, 2013). Therefore, the rehabilitation of prisoners is the right and moral way. After isolation of an individual for a few years, the society will get degraded man that will be functionally and mentally unable to work. After 5-6 years in prison, a person requires a long period of adaptation in order to acquire the ability to work. Often, he/she has no family, no relationships, no job, and no prospects (Sechrest, 2013). Therefore, rehabilitation on the early stages is the best option for this category of people. In fact, prisoners have only a little chance to adapt to a normal environment where they need to make strong-willed efforts. Not surprisingly, community has such a high percentage of relapse. Therefore, rehabilitation is an important process, and prolonged detention is harmful to the convicts (Sechrest, 2013). Even if a released person gets the work, family and begins to live a normal life and raise children, there is a high probability that they will not be able to avoid repeating the crime. When state punishes the offender, it prepares the next generation of criminals, and possibly, a criminal dynasty. The punishment does not bring use, it maims but does not correct (Sechrest, 2013). Besides, incarceration is not beneficial to the society that, instead of a working citizen, receives criminally educated and embittered man. Therefore, the prison sentence does not benefit neither the perpetrator nor the victim, society, and state. Consequently, rehabilitation is the best procedure because the community can receive socially prepared person.

The Effectiveness and Statistics of Rehabilitation

The issue of the offender’s rehabilitation, its consequences, and state support for this category of people is one of the very important problems in the society. The US government has a vision of an alternative form of rehabilitation of criminals. The program stipulates that criminals are sent not to prison, and will resort to rehabilitation based on a court decision (Vermeulen & Wree, 2013).


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The US Department of Justice states that this form is the most effective for several reasons (Vermeulen & Wree, 2013). Firstly, it will help to save budgetary costs of placement of criminals in jails (Vermeulen & Wree, 2013). Secondly, the system of justice in the United States is very inefficient at this stage, and the main task of the state in this area should be not a punishment of offenders but their rehabilitation. According to statistics, 71% of convicts who are drug addicts and are in prison continue to use drugs even in jails and, upon release, commit crimes for which they were punished (Vermeulen & Wree, 2013). In fact, rehabilitation has a special impact on the society. After it, many sentenced individuals get interest in life, find jobs and give birth to the children (Vermeulen & Wree, 2013). Moreover, it has been proven that those who undergo the process of rehabilitation are less likely to relapse in comparison with those who are released after a long period.

As for the victims, they rarely agree with this situation and crave for punishment. However, the function of rehabilitation may be more useful than the incarnation.. The offender who passes the rehabilitation processes receives a number of benefits and assistance from the state (Vermeulen & Wree, 2013). There are a number of socialization systems and training courses in different specializations. Therefore, the individual is recovering with comfort and with the ability to return to a normal life. These rehabilitation programs require large investments, but they are significantly lower than those necessary to keep criminals in prison. Moreover, rehabilitating criminals can do public works. According to statistics, about 60-70% of rehabilitating criminals continue to live according to social norms (Vermeulen & Wree, 2013). Therefore, it is the quality processe of socialization of offenders with the opportunity to start a new life for them.


To sum up, incarceration is one of the main forms of punishment. This is the process of restoring a social justice, providing special and general prevention of crimes. However, regardless of the final verdict, six out of the 10 convicts commit a new offense within three years after release. Thus, this process is non-effective for the society. In contrast, rehabilitation is responsible for the range of subjects and their socialization. In fact, there are number of training courses in different specializations that help offenders to start a new life. Besides, more than a 60% of offenders do not return to crimes after the procedure. Therefore, it is the effective process with good statistics and benefits for the society.

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