Field Study and Research in Criminal Justice


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Rates of incarceration in the United States have drastically increased in the last three decades. The inmates population in the country’s prisons has risen from half a million to more than two million in a span of between the 1980s through today. As a result, over $35 billion is spent every year in the correctional facilities at the expense of other essential government services including education, health, and infrastructural development. Worse still is that the incarceration rate is alarmingly high for Hispanic males as well as African-Americans. Indeed, the US Department of Justice estimates that one in every three black males will face imprisonment at one least once in their life. However, most of this increase is the result of stiffer penalties for drug-related offenses in which women are also involved. According to the Pew Research Center, about 2.7 million children have at least one parent who is currently incarcerated.

We can therefore argue that philosophically, incarceration and its role have changed from that of a rehabilitation function in the 20th century to centers of deterrence and even retribution. Gone are the days when prison was reserved for the violent offenders who posed threat to public safety and convicted of felonious acts. Today, the increased fear of crime among the voting public has seen a criminal justice system that incarcerates people with no history of violent crime and, in many cases, have no prior convictions. We ought to understand that crime is inevitable in society and hence prompting the need for correctional facilities. In this case, therefore, it is essential to compare the US with European justice systems as the latter focus more on rehabilitation and sentences are lighter. Prisons are facilities that a country cannot be proud of since their increase would signify that the society is experiencing high levels of crime, unjustly punishing offenders for relatively minor crimes, or both.

The fact is that there numerous ways to hold offenders accountable of misconduct and more so with the ones who have committed nonviolent crimes. If these alternatives are implemented to the latter, they could boost public safety and increase the likelihood that offenders become rehabilitated. Research reveals that adopting other alternatives is more cost-effective. Given that the criminal justice system in the US expensive - with some states encountering expenditures of $60,000 per inmate - it raises the need for lawmakers to re-examine government expenditures for social programs along with the accountability for prison spending. However, this is not meant as an excuse for criminal acts but rather means that we ought to think ‘outside the cell’ in the way of punishing and accountability for offenders.

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Background of the study

Advocates of higher sentences and "tough on crime" legislation depend solely on the justification that incarcerating in large numbers results in reduced crime. This is a topic worth debating today since there are numerous factors to consider before drawing conclusions on this issue (Western 116). According to those who favor incarceration, by increasing the prison population, the result is not only reduced crime rate but also significant taxpayer savings. Mathematically it is a two variable equation, which supposes that increase incarceration directly causes a decrease in crime. However, those who oppose this have conducted research studies questioning the effectiveness of incarceration as an ideal tool for controlling crime (U.S. Dept. of Justice 56). Indeed, the National Academy of Sciences proposes that there is no systematic evidence in support of both general and selective incapacitation as having an impact on crime reduction.

Also, a review of “what works’ reached the conclusion that while the incarceration of offenders would reduce crime to some extent, it is also important to note that the number of crimes prevented by incarcerating an additional offender drops with diminishing returns as less serious convicts are imprisoned (Thomson 88). According to the crmininologycal theory, it can therefore be noted that causes of crime are complex and vary from one individual to another. Consequently, the responses for criminal justice systems is likely to have implications for crime but cannot in the long term become an efficient or warranted policy for society. In America, the use of incarceration to mitigate on crime has exceedingly gone beyond the potential benefits desired and hence raises the need for reexamination.

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Research problem

An important topic to research and provide my point of view on is based on my first assignment “Thesis Statement” on Sep 22, 2015, and investigates incarceration rates and the pros and cons of the prison system and argues for why alternatives such as parole and probation will not be effective or at least reach the accomplishment rates that were desired since the “war on drugs." It will also discuss why the treatment of illnesses among the prison population and general rehabilitation methods remain below par (Murdoch 104). This is particularly disconcerting in light of a major lawsuit brought against the state California in particular and in many cases against other states, which made it all the way up to the US Supreme Court. The parties involved are willingly or unintentionally costing taxpayer huge amount of money to settle lawsuits and in addition have been wasting tremendous amounts of money over decades while the rehabilitation alternatives and researchers and goals set existed.

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