Correctional institutions for criminal offenders integrate various correctional and treatment programs in an effort for inmate rehabilitation, deterrence, incapacitation, and retribution. However, these goals get limited due to various offender issues and trends in correctional facilities. These issues and trends that get described in this paper limit public safety and public satisfaction with the criminal justice system since ex-convicts get released to the society without undergoing a proper correction. Various measures and interventions get recommended for the different correctional facility concerns.
The correctional facilities and institutions serve different functions to address the punishment and treatment needs of offenders. The primary purpose is general confinement since over 90 percent of the correctional objectives aim at confinement or incapacitation. Various correctional programs have got developed to achieve retribution and deterrence. Correctional institutions also get used for reception diagnosis and classification, boot camp/shock incarceration, substance abuse treatment, medical treatment or hospitalization, youth offender placement and work-release programs. However, various issues and trends get involved with offenders in correctional institutions and need to get addressed.
One of the issues affecting offenders in correctional facilities is overcrowding in jails and prisons. Overcrowding in correctional facilities get attributed to factors such as increased arrests, increased numbers of parole violators who get detained, mandatory prison sentencing practices in the criminal justice system, inefficiency in handling cases in the criminal justice system and public attitude. This overcrowding has adverse impacts to prisoners and affects the impact of correctional programs to offenders. According to Dansky (2008) overcrowding in correctional facilities directly impacts prisoners’ mental and physical health by increasing the level of uncertainty with which they regularly must cope. Overcrowding also strains the staff and the institutions and consequently leading to the ineffectiveness of the correctional programs. It is, therefore, necessary for policy makers in the criminal justice system, the government and other stakeholders to formulate other correctional measures and interventions that assist in reducing the inmate populations in prisons. Measures that have got implemented to reduce prison population include expansion of the prisons and jails as well as the formulation of other correctional measures instead of prison sentencing.
Another issue that affects offenders in the correctional facilities is the lack of correctional programs that meet the specific needs of the offenders. The sexual offender treatment programs that get used to reducing recidivism in the sexual offender population are inefficient and controversial in corrections. The design and conduct of the sexual offender treatment programs and the subsequent evaluations of the programs is very challenging and also suffer from methodological deficiencies. The implementation approaches that do not get incorporated in these programs include insufficient measures of recidivism, lack of controlled comparison of the untreated offender, small samples and inadequate follow-up periods. The treatment programs for sexual offenders can assist them to manage and control their sexual behaviors, although they are not efficient in the elimination of deviant sexual arousal patterns such as attraction to children. It is also easy to administer treatment programs in sexual offender correctional institutions or psychiatric hospitals; however, it is tough to track paroled and probationary population of sex offenders. Also, the handling of sex offenders regarding incarceration, treatment, and reintegration into the society is challenging. Sex offenders are least liked by fellow inmates hence a problem when detained, and also the placement of sex offenders on probation might create public relations challenges for the criminal justice system (Whitehead, Dodson & Edwards, 2012). Therefore, correctional officials and public policy makers need to formulate solutions for these issues when handling sex offenders.
Prison gangs are also a significant hindrance to the accomplishment of the objectives of correctional institutions for criminals. The prison-based gangs pose a severe security concern to fellow inmates, staff and also the public. They also prevent prison authorities from maintaining order and discipline as they usually impose own rules and regulations and engage in criminal activity such as extortion, murder, and protection racketeering. The problem of prison gangs in some nations is a significant threat to public security since they engage in drug trafficking in which they supply drugs, smuggled phones, weapons, and illicit items not only to the isolation cells but also to the community. Public policy makers and correctional officials need to address the issue of prison-based gangs since offenders who get released usually move the gang activities and operations to the community. The officials should also address the recruitment of new gang members so as to ensure that the objectives of detention get achieved.
Violence and sexual assaults in prison also limit offender control and correction in jails and prisons. Violence and sexual assaults are not only a violation of individual human rights but also may result in physical injury or even death. Prison rape may lead to a spread of sexually transmitted diseases and also a potential death sentence to its victims. The objectives of detention in prisons and jails will not get achieved with the presence of violence and assault. Most of the prisoners who get released and have experience prison violence tend to have long-term psychological effects as well as may be violent. Levan (2016) states that prison violence can get addressed through the formulation of initiatives such as segregation policies, gang diversion programs and treatment options.
Prisoner Radicalization is also another issue affecting offenders in criminal facilities. In the United States, prisoner radicalization poses a significant threat of unknown magnitude to the security of the nation. Jails and prisons get used as places where extremist ideology and calls for violence get promoted. Prison radicalization in prisons is hard to control since managing prisoner associations of inmates in prison is impossible and also religious freedom is guaranteed in prisons. It is also difficult to differentiate radicalized prisoners who get released to the society and later get involved in terrorist acts. Therefore, it is vital for correctional officers and public policy makers to come up with measures to deter prisoner radicalization, especially for new offenders. It is essential to draw a balance between control and management of correctional institutions and the rights of inmates so as to prevent inmate radicalization.
Drug and substance abuse in correctional facilities is a significant problem leading to difficult in accomplishing the objectives of rehabilitation, deterrence, and incarceration. The common drugs in correctional facilities are alcohol, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine. Correctional officials should formulate and implement measures that prevent access to drugs in prisons and jails. The problem of drug and substance abuse for ex-convicts continues long after they get released hence affecting their personal life and the community.
The various issues and trends relating to prison and jail overcrowding, drug and substance abuse in prisons, prisoner radicalization, inefficient correctional and treatment programs, prison-based gangs and violence and assaults in prison prevent the correctional objective of correctional facilities. It is vital for public policy makers, the government, correctional officials and other stakeholders to formulate measures to deal with the offender issues in correctional facilities so as to ensure effectiveness of the criminal justice system. The correctional facilities should give offenders an opportunity to depart from crime and return productively to the society.
Dansky, K. (2008). Symposium: Confronting the Crisis, Current State Initiatives and Lasting Solutions for California Prison Conditions. University of San Francisco School of Law.
Levan, K. (2016). Prison violence: Causes, consequences and solutions. Routledge.
Whitehead, J. T., Dodson, K. D., & Edwards, B. D. (2012): Corrections: Exploring Crime, punishment, and justice in America. Routledge.