Correctional Issues Research Paper Examples
The most common form of punitive measure adopted in the United States is incarceration. Individuals convicted of felonies and other offenses are largely imprisoned in federal prisons and county jails.' The US Bureau of Justice Statistics' show that an estimated 2,266,800 American adults were incarcerated by the end of the year 2011. The United States has witnessed a rapid rise in the prison population over the past four decades due its stringent policies on the fight against crimes. Non-violent offenders mainly occupy the penitentiary correctional facilities. The justice system in the United States has also contributed to this challenge of congestion in federal and state prisons as it has always tended to favor incarceration of criminals. Parole and probation services have been undermined by the courts eventually leading to overpopulated prisons.Court Rulings and Evolution to Current Status
Court rulings in the case of Plata v Brown and Coleman v Brown set precedence for the reduction of the prison population in the United States. The two cases were lawsuit actions against the State of California in the United States (Reid, 2011). The plaintiffs were inmates who had not received proper medical and mental health care respectively from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). They had filed a motion pursuant to the US Litigation Reform Act seeking the courts to convene a panel of three judges. The plaintiffs’ argument was that CDCR had failed to meet its constitutional obligations of adequate health care due to the overcrowding in state prisons. The question of determination was whether the challenge of congestion in the penitentiary facilities rendered the CDCR as incapable of providing adequate health care for the inmates (Reid, 2011). The prisoners were living in deplorable conditions yet they were entitled to proper health care as envisaged in the United States Constitution.
The tripartite judge panel made a controversial ruling on the issue of overcrowding in the California State prisons. The Court ruled in favor of a system that was meant to mitigate the consequences of congestion in the prisons. A limit of 137.5% was set in a bid to decrease the demographics of California prisons (Clear, Reisig, & Cole, 2012). The timeframe for this limit was to be two years. The implemented actions were to be gauged in connection to the design capacity of the prisons. Design capacity referred to the precise number of beds that could accommodate all the inmates in the prison dormitories without using double bunks. An additional requirement of the Court was that the State was to submit a reform plan initiating these changes in its correctional facilities (Clear, Reisig, & Cole, 2012). The ruling also extended the mandate of the state as it was not precluded from holding criminal offenders in other public or private correctional facilities.
The Schwarzenegger administration in California positively responded to the ruling of the three judges. A new plan was immediately conceived and submitted to the court for consideration. The proposals in the plan included increasing the capacity of the existing penitentiaries and construction of new correctional buildings to offset any deficit in the demand for more prisons (Reid, 2011). The plan was well thought out and served a worthy purpose aimed at transforming the situation at the time. Nevertheless, the court declined to accept the plan forcing the Schwarzenegger administration to revise it accordingly. The revised plan that was later submitted incorporated new changes in the sentencing laws meant to enable attainment of the set limit of 137.5% (Reid, 2011). On the 12th of January 2010, the Court decided to approve the revised plan on a condition that the state would independently come up with measures enabling attainment of the required population limit in the prisons (Clear, Reisig, & Cole, 2012). The California state aggrieved by this decision launched an appeal in the United States Supreme Court.
The US Supreme Court concurred with the ruling of the three judges. The court, however, slightly modified the earlier decision made by the three-judge panel. It considered the deadline time frame as unreasonable judging from the rapid escalation of the challenges in the California State Prisons (Clear, Reisig, & Cole, 2012). The deadline was amended to be a period of five years in order to give more time for the much-needed reforms to take place. The hallmark ruling of the Supreme Court created a path that lead to the overhauling of the incarceration justice system in the United States to date.Effect of the Correctional Issues on the Correctional Populations
The United States experienced a decline in the population of the correctional facilities in the year 2009 leading up to 2011. The trend was due to a realization of the grave concerns of congestion in the state and federal prisons. Over 30,000 criminal offenders were either transferred or released during this period (Clear, Reisig, & Cole, 2012). A large number of the reforms were connected to the significant shift to local incarceration that was promoted by numerous states (Clear, Reisig, & Cole, 2012). The harsh punitive policies were reconsidered and replaced with active rehabilitation systems geared towards the transformation of criminals to better persons in society.
The immediate decrease of the population in the incarceration facilities was tremendous. It was attributed to the famous public safety realignment initiative in the state of California. The policy was associated with shifting non-violent criminal offenders from the state prisons to county jails (Reid, 2011). It involved a further utilization of the local jurisdiction correctional facilities while simultaneously reforming the parole practices in California (Reid, 2011). The initiative also introduced a post-release supervision mechanism of criminals that was to be done by the communities. The Counties were also to receive adequate funding from the State in a bid to sustain the operation costs of county jails (Reid, 2011). The plan encouraged the other states to devise ways to manage their prison populations and in the end the number of incarcerated individuals in the United States was significantly reduced. It was a master plan that orchestrated a new methodology in the handling of minor criminal offences in the United States.Effect of the Current Status on Policing Agencies, Courts and Society
In the recent years, police departments in the United States have become more enlightened on the issue of managing crime in society. The police officers are no longer persons called to perform the duty of investigating crime merely. They are now more problem-solving oriented in the matter of increased crime rate in society. Police officers have now adopted community policing methods meant to scrutinize and examine criminals before they re-enter society (Reid, 2011). They identify the crime causing factors and strive to eliminate them. All these efforts are made with the sole purpose of ensuring that criminals do not keep getting recycled in the justice system (Clear, Reisig, & Cole, 2012). The current status of things has positively impacted on the policing ideologies in the handling of crime in society.
The courts have also witnessed a number of changes in the justice system as a result of the reforms instituted in the incarceration system of the United States. Attorney General, Holder in the last summer of 2014, announced to the public an initiative to reduce prison sentences for convicts in the federal prisons (Clear, Reisig, & Cole, 2012). The judges were to be awarded discretionary sentencing powers in the new strategy of mitigating the adversities of the US incarceration system. The different approach was to be implemented through proposed legislation in the United States Congress (Clear, Reisig, & Cole, 2012). It was clear that the issue of congestion in the penitentiary facilities was taken seriously by the government and, as a result, some of the court’s sentencing procedures were to be reformed.
The American Society greatly benefited from the new status of incarceration systems in the United States. Americans had lost many of their family members to correctional facilities. They now had an opportunity to mingle with their convicted relatives again (Clear, Reisig, & Cole, 2012). However, the communities were also to be involved in ensuring that the criminals were successfully integrated into society. American citizens were also urged to participate individually in the fight against crime in order to tackle the ever rising crime rate in the United States.
In conclusion, it is undoubtedly clear that the incarceration system in the United States was overly punitive. The transformation that originated with court cases in California was a driving force in the elimination of overcrowded prisons. The public realignment initiative was the beginning of greater things to come in the future of prison systems in the United States. The courts also played a crucial role in these correctional issues as it brought them to the forefront.
Clear, T., Reisig, M., & Cole, G. (2012). American Corrections. Boston, Massachusetts: Cengage Learning.
Reid, S. T. (2011). Criminal Justice Essentials. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.
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