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Criminal Justice System


A criminal justice system refers to the system of government institutions and practices directed at maintaining the social control and deterring crime (CliffsNotes, 2012). The system is made up of three key parts, i.e. the legislature (to create laws), courts and correction facilities (prisons, jails, a parole and probation). All these separate agencies function in unison with the aim of maintaining law and order within the society. It is a sad fact that the criminal justice system in America is biased, i.e. the social status and finances of a person highly determines whether he or she will be arrested, convicted and sentenced.  Poor people have a higher chance of being arrested than the rich ones. According to CliffsNotes (2012), this is because poor people have the minimal privacy, making them more noticeable by the police, unlike wealthy people being secluded at their homes and offices where they commit a crime unnoticed. Police officers also tend to evade arresting influential and affluent members of the society due to the fright of political pressure.

All defendants are entitled to a legal counsel by the United States. However, there exists a high discrepancy in the quality of assistance given to the rich and poor people. For instance, the poor are given court-appointed legal representatives, who have a lot of cases to handle and may be receiving low wages. As a result, there is a high likelihood that these lawyers will handle their cases in a hasty manner due to the lack of enough time. Conversely, wealthy defendants recruit the teams of resourceful and skilled lawyers who, most of the time, ensure that a ruling is passed in favor of clients. The criminal justice system, in conjunction with prisons, serves the society through isolating criminals from the public, deterring crimes and ensuring that criminals are punished for their crimes. The system also helps in rehabilitating criminals into useful people in the society. The examples of programs aimed at rehabilitating criminals include the personal counseling, education, as well as vocational training equipping them with skills that enable them to earn a living in the outside world without indulging into criminal activities.


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The current prisons are congested due to the dramatic increase in inmate populations in the recent decades. The extremely brutal circumstances in prisons have caused prisoners to undergo various health problems such as hypertension, psychological disorders, heart disease, and even suicide (CliffsNotes, 2012). Despite the increase in the number of incarcerated populations in the US, crimes have also continued to increase. This is something that many sociologists have not been able to explain.

In this study paper, we explore various issues faced by the criminal justice system. The focus will be on the prison overcrowding, mental illness issues, alternative drug sentencing, immigration, medical marijuana, a capital punishment, and a prison reform. In the actual sense, these form the outstanding issues in any criminal justice system, which calls for the considerable attention. The issue of prison populations in the criminal justice system ought to be addressed as it poses some significant challenges to the operations of government. Drug sentencing is a veritable offense in the present criminal system with most people engaging into this illegal act. There have been several suggestions to the judicial system to come up with other alternatives to sentencing drug offenders apart from their imprisonment. Conversely, mental illness is a serious challenge to the criminal justice system, with no good mechanisms in place to handle such offenders.

Prison Overcrowding

The understanding of prison populations and the dangers of overcrowding are the issues, which require the substantial attention from different quarters of the criminal justice system. As the increasing inmate population is a mounting apprehension in America, many people decree enforcement organizations and scholastic experts have analyzed information concerning the situation. They are working towards finding a lasting solution (Smith, 2007). There are various reasons behind the current prison overcrowding issues such as the lack of sufficient space in prisons, unpredictable crime rates, alterations to laws and enhancements to decree the enforcement diplomacy. Before any solution to the problem of prison overcrowding is reached, the necessary authorities need to understand the causes of problem. Researchers have concluded that the major reasons behind prison overcrowding are harsher penalties imposed on criminal activities. There are certain criminal offences, which do not call for harsh penalties such as imprisonment. The criminal justice system needs to come with alternative punishments to some criminal offences apart from imprisonment. This means that only severe criminal offenders should receive the imprisonment punishment. This will help to reduce the number of prisoners requiring the government surveillance.

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Another reason behind prison overcrowding is the ever-increasing changes to laws, which make new actions illegitimate. The rise of criminal activities will increase the number of people being prosecuted at an alarming rate. In spite of changes to illegal activities, the judicial system does not provide alternative punishments; hence, all offenders face the imprisonment option. The research also indicates that the reason behind prison overcrowding is the high recidivism rates, and, therefore, improvements to the penal system are necessary. The issue of prison overcrowding is a problem in many amenities, but it is not apparent whether the impact it has on prisons is negative or positive. Prison overcrowding leads to double ceiling where by inmates have to share prison spaces, which nullifies the whole idea of confinement (Smith, 2007). Overcrowding prisons can lead to a prisoners’ misconduct although this may not be a direct cause for the prisoner misconduct. Overcrowding has a direct consequence on the penitentiary administration as it creates a far more demanding atmosphere on the corrections for wardens and officers.

Mental Illness

The number of people with the mind infirmity in the US jails continues to grow with the current records indicating that about 7% of people in the US jails suffer from mental illness (Fiack, 2009). Nearly 700,000 persons with vigorous symptoms of relentless mental illness health are admitted to prisons annually. The criminal justice, mental health professional and advocates have called for distraction labors to tie offenders with mental illness health to community-based services to split their unrelenting cycling through the illegal justice, mental physical condition, and substance abuse management systems and to lessen the number of people with the psychological illness in penitentiary. According to Fiack (2009), the crucial issue affecting the criminal justice system is the lack of an all-inclusive approach to all the issues concerned in giving care and management to persons with mental illness that have become concerned with the criminal integrity system. There needs to be a good and promising program and models to help the judicial system in dealing with offenders with mental instabilities. In the recent cases, there have been the offenders claiming mental instability, which is hard for the system to evaluate.

On the other hand, criminal offenders with the mental instability pose a challenge to the judicial system in terms of management. There are no sufficient facilities to manage and host criminal offenders with the mental instability. This means that these offenders will have to stay with normal persons, which pose danger to all parties. The justice system needs to come up with the appropriate facilities for the mentally unstable offenders as they need the exceptional care irrespectively of their status in the society. The proposed option to the issue of mental illness is a jail diversion, which refers to the specific programs, which display prisoners in contact with the unlawful justice organization for the existence of any mental disorder. In this case, the justice system employs mental physical condition professionals to assess the detainees and discuss with prosecutors, to defense a legal representative, community-based psychological health providers and magistrates. The essence is to develop community-based mental health dispositions for the mentally ill detainees (Fiack, 2009).

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The jail diversion option is sought as a substitute to examination, as a condition of a lessening in charges, or as a fulfillment for offences. Once such a temperament has been determined upon, the distraction program links the patron to community-based mental physical condition services. Even though, jail distraction programs emerge to have an extensive support, few researches have methodically examined the efficiency of diversion programs using the client conclusion statistics. It is evident that the current programs benefit the targeted recipients in relation to the symptoms stabilization, abridged jail moment, higher echelon community modification, and unwavering involvement in the society mental physical condition services (Fiack, 2009).

Alternative Drug Sentencing

Drug criminal offenders have been on the rise in the recent years. Drug possession and use was and still is a serious criminal offence in the US and other parts of the world. For this reason, all drug offences have an imprisonment penalty. This affects both the young and adult offenders in connection with a drug abuse. The increase in drug offenders has, however, not been met with proper facilities to uphold the offenders. For instance, prisons have remained overcrowded because of the high number of offenders most of whom are being drug abuse offenders. There have been calls for the justice system to come up with alternative forms of sentencing drug offenders apart from imprisonment (Smith, 2007). For instance, the courts can employ some probation sentences for drug offenders. In this case, the drug offenders will be under various programs to monitor their conduct and failure to change the calls for harsh penalties. Drug offenders, especially for the minor cases, can be put under probation for the specified period to ensure a behavior change and stop the drug abuse. Probation sentences do not require any imprisonment as the offenders will only be under surveillance and not confined to the certain facility. Defendants found guilty of a drug offense are eligible for a term of probation unless the individual is convicted of a much serious drug crime.


Immigration refers to the moving of persons from one nation to another so as to establish the home in the new country. The reasons for immigration include work, studies and etc. Every nation has its own immigration laws in order to check the number of people entering and leaving its borders. According to Archibold (2010), the immigration law is a government policy that checks the movement of people to the particular country. Immigration laws govern the legal status of foreigners in such matters like citizenship. These laws differ among various countries and are determined by the political climate of the country and its state of security. Some nations maintain strict immigration laws, which are aimed at controlling the rights of entry and internal rights; for instance, the right to contribute in the affairs of the government as well as the duration of visit. A majority of nations have the laws which select a process for naturalizing immigrants (Archibold, 2010). For example, the United States permits over one million foreigners every year to become its lawful permanent residents, making it the leading nation in the world to receive such a large number of people. The illegal immigration began in the U.S. in the 1920s and emerged to be a huge crisis in the 1980s.

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In 1875, a state law was passed that forbade the entry of prostitutes and criminals in the U.S. The law may have affected very few immigrants, but it marked the beginning of division between legal and illegal immigrants. The largest immigration wave was witnessed between 1881 and 1920, in which 23.5 million immigrants entered the U.S. from various parts of the world (Archibold, 2010). Since then, people from all over the world have kept on travelling to America, to look for better opportunities in education, employment and etc. However, after the 9/11 attack, the immigration law in the United States has become a very serious matter, and, as a result, numerous immigration laws were enacted to control the unlawful immigration (Archibold, 2010). The main reasons for placing laws to curb immigration include checking the movement of people from one country to another, preventing a crime, controlling the spread of contagious diseases, protecting jobs for local people, as well as for the national security.

Medical Marijuana

Marijuana is classified as a prohibited drug in numerous countries and has been utilized by humans for many years. However, there has been an increasing call to legalize marijuana in the past 2 decades, owing to the medicinal benefits that are derived from the substance. Marijuana is made from drying the flowers and leaves of Cannabis sativa. Its effects are produced by delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the active chemical in marijuana. Despite the call for its legalization, marijuana’s medicinal benefits have been highly contested. This is evident by the fact that the drug has been legalized in only fourteen states and the District of Columbia since 2010 (Uddin, 2011).

There has been a particular increase in the use of marijuana amongst teenagers over the years. For instance, as in December 2011, 1 out of every 15 students at high school smoked marijuana daily; the figure that attained a thirty-year peak, while the teenagers’ utilization of cocaine, alcohol and cigarettes declined gradually (Uddin, 2011). This popularity of marijuana is a reflection of what drug officials and researchers maintain is the increasing perception amongst teenagers that the habitual utilization of marijuana has a minimal risk. According to experts, this enhanced perception is attributed to the increased acquaintance with medical marijuana and the easy access to the drug.

The supporters of this drug claim that marijuana is safer to use than alcohol for both individual people and the society. There has been a proposal in Colorado to legalize the marijuana use in small quantities, and, according to Uddin (2011), it is a subject that has a high likelihood of being mentioned during this year’s US election campaigns. According to the supporter of marijuana from Colorado, the aim for the legalization of substance is to keep safe our communities through regulating the use of this substance especially among young people and not to increase the access to marijuana. It is agreed amongst supporters of legalization of medial marijuana that people are abusing the substance and that legalizing the drug would help fixing this problem.

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Benefits of Medical Marijuana

Pain Relief

A key benefit associated with using medicinal marijuana is to relieve the neuropathic or chronic pain. According to Unidd (2011), the study done is 2009 to analyze the impacts that medicinal marijuana treatment has on HIV patients with the neuropathic pain, found out that 46% of patients using medical marijuana felt a 30% reduction in their pain. This contrasts 18% of HIV patients felt placebo and attained the similar results, indicating the effectiveness of medical marijuana in relieving pain.

Increased Appetite

Using marijuana stimulates the metabolism of body, thus, causing users to have an increased appetite. There are several diseases that cause a decrease in appetite such as the HIV and cancer. As a result, patients loose a considerable amount of weight that impacts on their recovery process negatively. In order to fight against the diseases or infection, the human body needs energy in the form of consumed food. Medical marijuana is, therefore, vital to such patients as it helps to stimulate their appetites.

Decreased Nausea

Many patients experience vomiting or nausea due to the effects of some diseases and treatments, for example chemotherapy. According to Unidd (2011), a marijuana’s active ingredient, THC, has a potential of reducing the symptoms of vomiting or nausea in some cancer patients. The effective control of such symptoms helps to enhance the quality of life of patients and even to increase their reception to various treatments they are receiving.

Muscle Relaxation

Inhaling marijuana smoke helps to relax body muscles. Unidd (2011) states that patients suffering from the repeated muscle tightness usually find it difficult to complete the tasks connected with everyday activities. Such people can benefit from using medical marijuana because the drug has a capacity of reducing symptoms of muscle pains and tensions. Medical marijuana is, therefore, beneficial to such people by enhancing their capability to move normally, as well as to promote their general quality of life in a positive manner.

Capital Punishment

Capital punishment, also known as a death sentence, refers to putting to death an individual by the state to punish him or her for a crime (Keyzer, 2007). Throughout the history, capital punishment has been used in the societies to contain political rebels and punish for the capital crimes. Currently, capital punishment is reserved to a punish treason, an intentional murder, and espionage. In certain states, adultery, rape, sodomy, and even apostasy also trigger the death penalty. In China, for example, the severe corruption cases and human trafficking are punished via the death penalty. The question is whether capital punishment prevents or deters crimes. Do prospective assassins take into consideration the possibility that they might face a capital punishment prior to murdering someone? My answer is definitely no. Though capital punishment has been employed as a means of deterring crime for a long time, its deterrence value is an issue that continues to incite a heated debate among those supporting and those being against the punishment (Keyzer, 2007). Below is a discussion of capital punishment as a means of deterring crimes.

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Capital punishment as a means of deterring crime is based on the notion that by executing murderers, other prospect criminals are threatened by the punishment that prevents them from committing more crimes. This is referred to as a general deterrence. There is also the specific deterrence in which the convicted criminal is murdered to prevent him or her from carrying out further crimes (Keyzer, 2007). Both the general and specific deterrence have the incited heated debate due to the conflicting evidence from several studies conducted on this issue. Proponents of capital punishment argue that since murder cases are serious crimes against humanity, it is, therefore, justifiable to employ the death penalty to punish murderers to prevent them and other potential murderers from committing future crimes. Their argument is based on the fact that death is feared by most people, thus, making capital punishment effective in deterring further crimes because people fear of being murdered.

However, according to Keyzer (2007), the majority of murders are carried out impulsively either during the moments of passion or by the people under the influence of drugs. Potential murderers are driven by passion to kill not considering the consequences of their actions, and under such circumstances, the threat of punishment does not prevent them from committing crimes. This opinion is reiterated in the remarks of Jim Mattox, the former Attorney General of Texas, who said that most executions, which hadtaken place in Texas, were premeditated and not deterred even by the knowledge of existence of capital punishment (Keyzer, 2007). In addition, if such serious crime as a murder should be punished by a severe punishment, then the long-term incarceration is brutal enough to deter criminals from committing similar crimes in future instead of killing them.

While capital punishment has been employed to prevent future murders, a series of studies by criminologists have proven that the punishment has an opposite effect, i.e. instead of deterring a crime, it has led to increased murder rates, what is called a brutalizing effect (“Gale Group”, 2002). Through killings, capital punishment devalues the life of human beings and creates an impression to the society that it is proper to kill under certain situations. Consequently, this has increased violence in the society because people no longer view life as sacred (Keyzer, 2007). As a result, the rates of murderers have increased due to the introduction of punishment. For instance, the homicide studies done by researchers, Glenn Pierce and William Bowers in New York between 1907 and 1963, found out that there was a slight increase in the rates of murder after the death penalty (Keyzer, 2007). As a result, they concluded that capital punishments brutalize the society’s sensibilities hindering prospective murderers.

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Another study done in 2008 revealed that states that employ capital punishment had an average murder rate of 5.2 for every 100,000 persons while the murder rate for those states without the capital punishment law was 3.3 for every 100,000 people (Keyzer, 2007). The United States which practices the capital punishment has a higher rate of executions compared to other countries such as Canada that do not have the death penalty. This is an implication that capital punishment does not deter the murder and other crimes.

In order to cause a deterring effect, a penalty must be administered consistently and swiftly to enable probable criminals, to clearly see the cause-and-effect relationship linking the punishment and  crime. However, capital punishment does not fulfill the stated conditions making it ineffective in deterring crimes. This is because only few first-degree killers are sentenced to death, and, still, a relatively smaller number is executed. It is vital to note that there has been an increase in the number of death sentences to nearly 250 annually since the 1980s. However, this number constitutes only 2% of homicide cases reported to the police, i.e. one execution in every fifty murder cases (Keyzer, 2007). The few numbers and low frequency of executions point out to the fact that capital punishment does not create any deterring effect for future crimes.

While capital punishment is intended to deter further crimes, the act of killing is morally wrong. Human life is sacred, and only the Lord has the prerequisite to take it away, therefore, the punishment is very barbaric and inhuman. There are other alternative severe punishment forms such as longtime imprisonment that can effectively punish serious crimes; thus capital punishment is unjustifiable and immoral. To conclude, no evidence has proven that capital punishment actually deters crimes (Keyzer, 2007). Besides, human life is sacred, and nothing justifies killing; even if it is the punishment for the gravest crimes committed. It is high time that states practicing the capital punishment realize its un-deterring effect so that they can switch to human forms of punishments.

All the above discussed key issues pose a considerable challenge to the criminal justice system's operations. Various proposals have been forwarded to make the changes to the issues of prison overcrowding, mental illness, alternative drug sentencing, immigration, medical marijuana, and capital punishment, but the outcomes are yet to be viable. However, it is expected that reforming prisons will significantly help in solving the above issues.

Prison Reform

The term prison reform is a blanket term for describing the programs and projects that are aimed at enhancing the prison conditions and creating a penal system, which is effective for the entire society (UNODC, 2012). The research has revealed that the economic and social effects of being jailed, in addition to the person’s experience within the prison creates circumstances which result in recidivism, as opposed to rehabilitation. Prison reform has a long history and varies significantly from one country to another, since prison conditions also vary amongst different nations. A sentence of incarceration only deprives one of his fundamental rights to freedom and does not involve restricting other human rights. Therefore, prison reform is needed to guarantee the respect of this principle. In addition, the prison reform should aim at increasing prisoners’ prospects for a social reintegration, as well as protecting their human rights in conformity with relevant global norms and standards. To have a better understanding of prison reform, let us first look at the negative effects of imprisonment.

Impacts of Imprisonment

Imprisonment and Poverty

Detention considerably affects poor families and individuals. For instance, when a bread winner of the family is jailed, other family members are compelled by circumstances, to make adjustments to suit their current financial status. Imprisonment effects are likely to be brutal in poor developing nations where the government does not offer a financial support to the needed ones. The family of the imprisoned person is often left with new expenses, to meet such as cost of hiring a lawyer, buying foodstuffs for the imprisoned individual, and transporting costs to prison among others. Even a following release, the former prisoner is faced with the socio-economic exclusion due to their little or no employment prospects. Consequently, they become vulnerable to a never-ending poverty cycle, which might force them to commit a crime and be jailed again. Therefore, imprisonment directly contributes to poverty of a prisoner, his family and the society, in general.

Public Health Consequences

A majority of prisoners are from the poor backgrounds, with a minimum access to the quality and sufficient healthcare. As a result, they usually have existing health complications upon entering jail, and their conditions continue to deteriorate due to the unpleasant prison conditions. The examples of such conditions include overcrowding, poor nutrition, unavailability of exercise and fresh air, as well as an inadequate sanitation (Smith, 2007). The key diseases that cause mortality and morbidity within prisons include mental disorders, TB, HIV infection, skin diseases, hepatitis B and C, malnutrition, injuries and diarrhea. Other than prisoners, prison staff also risks contracting the above diseases. Since prisons are not cut off from the society, their release back to the society means that the general public risks being affected by similar diseases.

Detrimental Social Effect

Incarceration weakens a social cohesion and interrupts relationships because maintaining such cohesions is anchored on long-term relations. Imprisoning a family member disrupts the family structure, which, in turn, negatively affects the relationship among couples, children and their parents, as well as the entire community.

The Imprisonment Cost

Imprisoning an individual often leaves his or her family with numerous expenses to meet, which may be a strain to poor families. The costs not only include the upkeep costs of the prisoner, but also the indirect costs such as healthcare, social and economic related costs.

Integrated Approach to Reforming Prisons

It is vital that prison reform should not be considered in seclusion from the broad criminal justice reform. According to the UNODC (2012), effective prison reform depends on the rationalization and enhancement of criminal justice policies, sentence policies, crime prevention, as well as the availability of treatment and care of vulnerable people within the society. Therefore, reforming the prison system ought to consider the needs of the whole criminal justice system and use an integrated strategy in order to attain sustainable effects. Apart from the prison service, the reform initiatives also need to include criminal justice institutions like the judiciary prosecution and the police service.

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When using an integrated approach to reform prisons, other areas that are normally not included in the criminal justice system ought to be taken into consideration. These areas include developing mental counseling programmes for mentally challenged prisoners instead of locking them up in prisons. Another area is the development of some drug dependence treatment programmes. Such programs will help in meeting the needs of the escalating number of criminals with special needs, as well as ensuring that prison services are not overstretched

Key Areas of to Be Considered for Prison Reform

Pre-Trial Detention

There are three major subjects that need to be considered regarding a pretrial detention. Firstly, a majority of nations worldwide overuse pre-trial detention, and in numerous developing nations, the size of population of pre-trial prisoners is huger than that of prisoners who are convicted. This is a contradiction to the international standards provision that provides a restricted utilization of pretrial detention. Another issue is that the pre-trial detention time is the period that is most abused within the criminal justice process. Considering the helplessness of detainees during this period, the global human rights instruments offer a significant number of particular safeguards to make sure that the detainees’ rights are not abused. The safeguards also ensure the detainees’ fair treatment and unhindered accessibility to justice. Lastly, pre-trial detainees ought to be assumed innocent till proven guilty. However, this is not the case, as evident by the pre-trial detention conditions, which are usually worse than those of convicted prisoners.

Additionally, numerous poor countries lack the prison resources. This means that persons in detention cannot access legal assistance and advice. This increases the chances of prisoners overstaying on remand, or not getting a fair trial, which further adds to prison congestions (UNODC, 2012). As a result, key elements to take into consideration in reforming prisons would be enhancing the access to justice, offering a support for paralegal and legal aid programmes, enhancing the information management, as well as increasing the collaboration between prisons and courts in order to expedite the processing of cases. Helping in developing safeguards for pre-trial detainees via monitoring and evaluation mechanisms should also be included as a part of prison reform

Prison Management

Fair and human management of prisons necessitates that national policies and legislation be guided by the global standards aimed at protecting the prisoners’ human rights. Prison authorities are responsible for making certain that the treatment and supervision of prisoners corresponds to the rule of law, regarding their human rights, and the utilization of imprisonment period to prepare prisoners to be the productive people after their release. However, currently, there are outdated national rules and legislations regarding prison management, which urgently require a reform. The prison departments in the majority of countries fall under the power of military institutions or the police. These managers do not have a specific training on prison management. Consequently, several prison systems globally suffer from low staff morale, the lack of effective leadership and inadequate systems of information collection. This is a hindrance to the development of sound strategies and policies founded on the trustworthy and factual data. Therefore, the prison reform should aim at developing training programmes aimed at enhancing the leadership role of prison managers and their staff so that they apply some global norms and standards in their day to day practice.

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Alternative Measures and Sanctions

Prison overcrowding remains one of the key concerns in the majority of prisons worldwide. Punitive, criminal policies and deficiency of social protection services within the community also continue to add to the hasty increase of prisoners in numerous countries. Being the underlying cause of several cases of human rights violations within prisons, overcrowding should be solved through long-term measures. Though building new prisons can temporarily lessen overcrowding, the research by the UNODC (2012) shows that this strategy does not offer a sustainable solution. Besides, it is expensive to build and maintain new prisons, which also puts the pressure on costly resources. According to the UNODC (2012), rationalizing the sentencing policy plus the use of alternatives to prison will help to decrease overcrowding in prisons. Other measures include transforming the focus of prison measures from isolation and punishment to the reintegration and restorative justice.

The above strategies, when used in conjunction with sufficient support for offenders, help prisoners to lead productive and fulfilling lives, without the fear of them relapsing back to their criminal behavior patterns. Therefore, implementing prison sanctions within the society, as opposed to the process of isolation, provides better and long-term protection for the whole community. Providing the support for the execution of noncustodial measures and sanctions, therefore, is vital in reforming prisons.

Social Integration

According to the UNODC (2012), successfully reintegrating prisoners return to the society after their release remains a key objective in reforming prisons. Social reintegration initiatives in the criminal justice system ought to begin urgently so as to have a maximum impact. This includes diverting from the ordinary criminal justice system to the proper treatment programmes (particularly, for the vulnerable people within the society) and developing purposeful programmes and activities within prisons. Another initiative is to adopt noncustodial sanctions, as opposed to isolating prisoners from the society. All these ought to be regarded as the key elements of an inclusive social integration policy.

However, the interventions aimed at offering the support to prisoners after they have been released from prison, as well as the variety of care for the needy in the community, can only be effective on condition that the imprisonment period is utilized properly to prepare inmates for re-entry into the community. The above initiatives necessitate a close corporation between social protection and healthcare services within the society, the criminal justice institutions, and the probation services.

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The right to health and equality in the provision of healthcare remains a principle which applies to every prisoner who is entitled to obtain a similar quality of healthcare available in the society. It is, however, sad that this basic right is seldom realized in prisons because of the extreme inadequacy of healthcare services. According to the UNODC (2012), there exists severe understaffing and underfunding of healthcare services in most prisons. Usually, under the people in charge of penitentiary administration, healthcare services within prisons isolate themselves entirely from the national health authorities such as national TB and HIV programmes. For instance, the specific health needs of women are hardly ever addressed.

The right to health entails both the access to curative, preventive, supportive and reproductive health, and the access to basic health determinants such as adequate sanitation, safe water for drinking, sufficient nutrition and housing, safe food, safe dental and health services, gender equality, education and information related to health, and healthy environmental and working conditions. The UNODC (2012) maintains that health in prisons and penal reforms are interrelated, and; therefore, an integrated approach ought to be adopted in order to address the huge challenge the HIV and AIDS, as well as other contagious diseases like tuberculosis within the prison settings. That is why improving prison conditions and management is a key to the development of sustainable health care strategy within prisons. Since prison health is a fundamental portion of public health, enhancing prison health, is, therefore, vital for public health policies to succeed.


The criminal justice system aims at maintaining the social control and deterring crime. It consists of legislature, courts and correction facilities. The key issues that have been discussed in this paper include prison congestion, mental illness issues, alternative drug sentencing, capital punishment, and the prison reform among others. It is vital that the necessary reforms be done in these key areas to improve the quality of services offered by our criminal justice systems.



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