Americas Correctional System, Rehabilitation or Punishment
The United States has been credited to be among the countries in the world that have an
advanced and elaborate criminal justice system. The systems have evolved over time to
encompass the various stages through which the state dispenses justice and maintain order in
the society. The correctional system is a subset of that system, mainly tasked with the duty to
discharge responsibilities of monitoring and maintenance of the incarcerations and the related
programs. There exists a debate within the criminal justice system as well as in the eyes of
the American citizens on the dispensation of punishment and rehabilitation in the system. The
debate is explicit as there exists evidence to support both the punishment as well as the
importance of rehabilitation. A far more debate rises in the question whether the correctional
facilities that exist within the systems are a stage for punishment or rehabilitation. Therefore,
this paper will strive to discuss the degree at which punishment is applied within the
programs of the correctional system. Similarly, the paper will discuss the dedication of the
correctional programs to the rehabilitation of offenders with the aim of reintegration to the
The United States correctional system
The United States correctional system exists in conjunction with the criminal justice system
in the country. The correctional system is among the oldest systems in the United States
having been established for the purpose of ensuring the dispensation of justice and
punishment and rehabilitation of offenders. The history of correctional systems goes far back
to the ancient civilizations in human history. The idea was driven by the need to punish or
exclude those who do not conform to the societal standards or those that openly disregard the
AMERICAS CORRECTIONAL SYSTEM 3
socialization rules set by the society. The correctional system is as old as the country itself.
There being offenders of the law, the correctional system gained its objective to punish and
exempt the offenders from the society (Reichel, 2002). However, the system has evolved
greatly due to the various considerations and development within the society on the view of
key issues that drive the system.
The correctional system on its face value has been credited in the monitoring and
maintenance of prison systems in the United States. However, the system has been expanded
to include various programs outside the prison facilities that are aimed to incorporate the
judgments made to offenders that do not warrant incarceration. Therefore, alternative
programs outside the prison have been established to incorporate such changes. There are
various approaches that the correctional system uses to dispense its duties; that is punishment
and rehabilitation. Both approaches are applied in the system, however, depending on which
program they are used, there is a conflicting degree of acceptance that the society allocates to
each approach. However, both approaches have various degrees of effectiveness and failure
in the system. It’s imperative therefore to understand that the discourse that exists is on
whether both approaches are aimed to reintegrate the inmates as well as the offenders back to
the society (Maruna and Immarigeon, 2013). The discourse is apparent due to a large number
of people that are subject to the correctional system to the tune of 1.2million people. The
number makes the United States be among the countries that have the highest number of
people in its correctional system.
Incarceration is part of the correctional system that involves the detention and lockup of
inmates who have been found guilty by the criminal justice system. Therefore, the
correctional system has expanded to include facilities such as jails, prisons as well as solitary
AMERICAS CORRECTIONAL SYSTEM 4
confinements. The names of these facilities although on several occasions are used interdorm;
they have a different degree of applicability and function in the correctional system.
Therefore, individuals in the different facilities are assigned depending on nature through
which they are booked into the system.
Therein, jails in this system are defined as facilities within the correctional system that are
used for the containment of individuals suspected of crimes. Therefore, individuals in the
facilities are not necessarily guilty or convicted of any crime. Some or most are held at the
facility while awaiting trial in the courts. Those among them not found guilty are released
back to the society by order of the court. Prisons, on the other hand, are facilities designed to
hold convicted felons. The facilities are established to deliver punishment as dictated by the
judgment passed by the court as well facilitate reform to the inmates. The facilities are
designed with various levels that denote the degree by which individuals convicted of various
crimes are categorized depending on the severity of their crimes. Therefore, they range from
minimum level to high-level security classification. Solitary confinement facilities exist
within the prisons when there is a determination that a prisoner has become a danger to
himself as well as others (Lipsey and Cullen, 2007). Therefore, such inmates are isolated in
separate cells that are independent of the main prison to prevent communication.
Due to the widespread of crime in the United States, punishment is used within the
incarceration facilities as a deterrent factor for criminal behavior. Nonetheless, it exists to
teach the convicted individuals the value of conformity to the set rules and regulations. In
most cases, castigation is conveyed in the system through the period that an individual is
locked up. The aim of this punishment by separation from the society presents the inmate
with the opportunity to identify the value of abiding by the societal norms. Other forms of
punishments that have been used alongside the sentenced years in the United States is hard
labor and in the most severe cases death. However, punishment has been identified to have
AMERICAS CORRECTIONAL SYSTEM 5
little effect to most inmates in adjusting their behavior to the better (Clear and Frost, 2015).
For instance, most of the prisoners who leave the American prisons end up being convicted of
other crimes and are thrown back in prison. Similarly, the presences of inmates who have
committed several crimes in the prisons have acted as an area where convicted individuals
can expand their criminal enterprise.
The incarceration facilities also include rehabilitation programs within that are used to model
the behavior of inmates within the facilities. The intention of these sequences is to ensure that
the individuals in the facilities have an equal chance to mend their behavior and become
productive members of the society. For instance, the prisons within the united states offer
prisoners with the chance to better themselves with education and valuable skills applicable
in the society. Other programs are aimed to modify inmate behavior through active
participation in sports or other interactive activities. More recently, the correctional system
has introduced therapy for inmates who wish actively work on their psychological issues and
hardships constructively (Andrews and Bonta, 2010). However, the effectiveness of these
programs is pinned on the perceived cooperation and commitment of inmates. Therein, the
several factors within the facilities such as overpopulation limit accessibility and efficiency of
Incarceration is not the only tool used by the United States correctional system to deal with
individuals in the society who breaks the law. Community supervision was established in the
country to act in complementary as well as an alternative to incarceration. In cognisant that
some laws broken do not warrant the severity of sentencing that is allocated to prison
standards, there was a need to have a solution. Community supervision is aimed in the system
to encompass rehabilitation programs that are in aid of released convicted felons as well as
AMERICAS CORRECTIONAL SYSTEM 6
petty offenders. The program nonetheless contains some aspects of punishment that contain
consequences that individuals within the system are supposed to suffer. Therein, being in
complementary of incarceration, it acts as a transition program for individuals serving
sentences within the system with the aim of reintegration to the society.
Several programs are contained therein that denote the various stages through which
rehabilitation and reintegration take place. The programs include parole, probation and
recidivism and community service. Parole program represents the program through which
inmates who have demonstrated good behavior in the prisons are released conditionally. The
program works in that the released person will acquire freedom within the limited regulations
specified by the law. Probation, on the other hand, is a substitute to imprisonment where a
convicted offender maintains a certain degree of freedom and liberty as determined by the
court. The terms of freedom may resemble those of parolees, and they exist on the condition
that they maintain a level of behavior that is by the standards of the rules or the existing
social norms. Recidivism is a term used in the correctional system to denote the situation
where convicted felons revisit and fall back to criminal behavior (Cullen and Jonson, 2014).
The phenomenon is facilitated by various factors within the society such as discrimination of
the convicted felons or the predisposition to violence among others.
Community supervision is praised due to the aim at which its geared towards the
reintegration and rehabilitation of the convicted offenders. The program acts in independence
to ensure the survival or maintenance of prosocial behavior of the released persons from
prisons. For instance, in some cases, the prescribed condition that individuals in the program
are to report to a psychologist officer. The programs have its objectives set on the guarantee
of the mental and psychological health of the individual as they reintegrate back into the
society. Similarly, the program is also aimed to ensure that the individuals are able to deal
with life challenges without resulting in criminal behavior (Clear and Frost, 2015). Other
AMERICAS CORRECTIONAL SYSTEM 7
programs such as supervision and monitoring of activities of the offenders on probation are
aimed at ensuring the conformity of rules and regulations laid out by the law.
Nonetheless, the rehabilitation capacity of community supervision is questioned due to the
recidivism of convicted felons. Their program is severely crippled by several factors that
exist within the society that works against the success and effectiveness of the program. For
instance, insufficient resources in the correctional system to effectively cover the basis of the
programs are a huge setback. Secondly, individuals within the programs are not separated
from factors or the issues that convicted them of committing crimes (Lipsey, and Cullen,
2007). Therein, recidivism increases on the basis of these challenges of discrimination,
unemployment as well as frustrations.
The American correctional system is exceptional to the efforts undertaken by the government
as well as the society to improve the functions of the system and the facilities within. Therein,
the application of punishment and rehabilitation can be identified in all the facilities and
programs within the system. It’s imperative to note. Therefore, both approaches of
punishment and rehabilitation are not used in isolation. They exist in complementary to each
other. However, there exist tremendous challenges within the United States correctional
system that massively frustrate the rehabilitation efforts implemented in the system. For
instance, insufficient funds have been cited as among the factors that have contributed to the
inefficiency of such programs. Therefore, punishment has been sorted as an alternative that
within the system and therefore widely implemented within the budget constraints of the
AMERICAS CORRECTIONAL SYSTEM 8
Andrews, D. A., & Bonta, J. (2010). Rehabilitating criminal justice policy and
practice. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 16(1), 39.
Clear, T. R., & Frost, N. A. (2015). The punishment is imperative: The rise and failure of
mass incarceration in America. NYU Press.
Cullen, F. T., & Jonson, C. L. (2014). Labeling theory and correctional rehabilitation:
Beyond unanticipated consequences. Labeling theory: Empirical tests, 63-88.
Lipsey, M. W., & Cullen, F. T. (2007). The effectiveness of correctional rehabilitation: A
review of systematic reviews. Annu. Rev. Law Soc. Sci., 3, 297-320.
Maruna, S., & Immarigeon, R. (Eds.). (2013). After crime and punishment. Routledge.
Reichel, P. L. (2002). Comparative criminal justice systems: A topical approach. Upper
Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.