Prisons & Punishment Essay Example

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Older probation order and newer therapeutic drug courts

Steve Hutchinson generally want to caution everyone not to make the mistake of recognising the current state of rehabilitation and reform as completely new but hybrid in the sense that they are being implemented alongside traditional repressive and controlling types of punishment. For instance, despite the presence of reform, rehabilitation and therapeutic form of punishment that were based on the principle that crime is mostly committed with underlying causes that are beyond the offender’s control, the neo-liberal policy is also focused on the notion that offenders are inefficient members of society solely responsible for his crime (Hutchinson 2006, p.455; Sim 2009, p.13). For clarity of argument, it is important to mention that criminal punishment in the early days was primarily based on the crime committed rather than the personality of the person who committed the crime. It was only when scientific approaches to crime and punishment change it and consider offenders freewill actors capable of understanding the harm caused, the immorality of his crime, and accepts the reality that he must change his behaviour in the future that reform and rehabilitation emerged as methods of crime reduction (Cornwell et al 2006, p.68).

The view that criminal justice and penalty underwent a certain transformation rather than continuance of the old trend or braided with repressive streams penal system came from such as authors as David Garland who claim that the present criminal justice system is a reorganization of the established penal trend during the 19th and 20th century. Simon Hallsworth also argues that there was a significant shift in the concept of offenders and punishment where former are no longer considered a useful and product subjects but individuals who deserve nothing but excruciating punishment. In contrast, Barry Vaughan view modern punishment as both disciplinary and reformatory because it seems to promote incarceration as well as reform and opportunities for offenders to regulate and change their behaviour (Hutchinson 2006, p.446-447).

Similarly, O’Malley (1999) in Hutchinson (2006, p.447) expressed the same concern and believed that correction and punitive system always work side by side particularly in neo-liberal policies despite the presence of seems reformative modern liberal penalty. For instance, the “welfare sanction” is considered by Garland as a 21st century “penal modernism” (Hutchinson 2006, p.446) supporting all kinds ‘correctionalist’ way of thinking including flexible sentences, probation, parole, treatment, juvenile courts, and even social welfare programmes. However, this does not necessarily mean it is independent of the traditional notion of punishment because deterrent and punitive penalties still seems to remain important to crime policy.

Tracing the relationship between older probation order and the current therapeutic drug courts will give us a clear view of what Hutchinson is arguing about. A Probation Order is generally an agreement between the court and the offender where the latter is allowed restricted freedom provided he will have good behaviour, live a productive life, remain in designated place, and so on (Walker 2010, p.168). And, according to Garland this same probation order is systematically mixed with the unifying ethos of today’s correctionalism (Hutchinson 2006, p.446). In other words, the same principle that created probation now co-exists with the current therapeutic justice system but how it is possible.

According to Knafla (2003), probation was once seen as suitable for youth offenders or adult moral backsliders and the reason for that is the notion that these types of offenders are in need of moralistic and friendly guidance that was often administered by a trained caseworkers. However, many people who went under probation in the early 1950s were so disturbed that friendship and guidance was no longer viable but some long and intensive casework. In the 1960s, due to the advent scientific evidence on the humanist aspect of crime, probation then became as some kind of social service where further crime will be prevented by readjusting the offender. Armed with scientific theories about personality and therapeutic method along with positivistic view of crime, the justice system in the following decades were marked by probation officers trained in the human personality, casework intervention, and criminological positivism (p.156).

Clearly, the probation service is inherently rehabilitative in nature and the succeeding treatment model is just a special case of this rehabilitative ideals. Rehabilitation is always there and historically as mentioned earlier, it was only the view of offenders that changed. For instance, the idea of punishment to deter criminality failed miserably because of the notion that offenders have to be punished if they done something morally wrong. Secondly, it follows the notion that punishment must match the level of offense. Note that the deterrence criminal justice system is not offender-centred but moral and offense oriented. In contrast, probation and other scientific model of punishment are centred on the offender’s human behaviour, biological, and social explanations of his or her actions (Masters & McGuire 1994, p.162). Similarly, some rehabilitation approaches were based on the notion that delinquent behaviour is a product of poor psychological development –psychiatry and therapeutic (McLaughlin & Muncie 2006, p.348) while other was based on social theories of crime that sees offenders as product of poverty, unemployment, and lower-class status (Masters & McGuire 1994, p.162). In general, these are reforms or rehabilitations dressed as a more humanitarian approach to criminality.

The rehabilitative principle of the 1950s was undoubtedly in some way therapeutic in nature as it considers the human and social side of the offender and his offense. Moreover, rehabilitation is seen as an offender’s right and it is the responsibility of the state to support this right (Robinson 2008, p.430). The neo-liberal way of thinking about crime and punishment of the 1980s however gave more emphasis on the managerial side of rehabilitation wherein strategies for improving efficiency, accountability, and value for money were given more importance resulting to containment rather than rehabilitation of offenders. Moreover, analysis conducted by Seddon (2007) suggest that there were mixed practices in this neo-liberal administration or management of risk. For instance, study shows that treatment of mentally ill offenders increased in the mid and late 1980s (p.151) despite neo-liberals strong emphasis on containment.

Note that neo-liberalism does not function on the basis of external moral considerations and not concern with what is right but efficiency. For instance, since neo-liberals are more concern with efficiency, policies on crime and punishment must be within this premise. Therefore, a thief is a problem not because he violates anything of value but because he is unproductive and inefficient. Similarly, fine will be more efficient than costly imprisonment because it will give government revenue (Aly 2010, p.31). The mix practices mentioned earlier was not a coincidence because neo-liberalism recognises two important facts about crime and punishment. First, it approaches to crime and punishment is innovative because it recognizes the redundancy of previous methods in the face of rising crime rates. Second, it is punitive in the sense that it must show to the public that the state is not that helpless. This particular view of crime and punishment can lead to some implications such as the reformulation of how criminal justice entities actually do justice. For instance, the police are increasingly engaged in civil system (community policing) rather than through the criminal justice system in reducing crime (Kilcommins 2004, p.32).

Although, neo-liberals seem some sort of rational reformers of punishment, its refusal to pathologised and dehumanised offenders is just on the surface (Dilts 2008, p.84). This is because they need to simultaneously established their culture of control, the free market, and protect their interest in governing through crime (McLaughlin & Newburn 2010, p.459). The neo-liberal exclusion of the deviant, marginalized, poor performers in economic marketplace, and violators of the law is also no coincidence since they are all associated with individualistic social ethos that promote the notion that individuals are solely responsible for themselves Moreover, crime is not a social or behavioural concern but sole responsibility of the offender that deserved to be punished (Cavadino & Dignan 2006, p.24).

The current crime and punishment policy as far as the neo-liberal mentality is concern is hybrid and made possible by political and economic pressures. The mixing or braiding is undoubtedly required to attain the efficiency that neo-liberals wanted. Certainly, they cannot avoid rehabilitative programmes despite common neo-liberals view of solely responsible offenders since this utilitarian rationale have already secured legitimacy in our society. Moreover, the notion of crime as risks entails some form of managerial and control-oriented approach alongside expressive or punitive rehabilitation. In this context, rehabilitation is merely an approach capable of reducing crime and an instrument of risk management and public safety (Robinson 2008, p.230-445) rather a primary method of crime reduction. The imagery created by the risk society eventually influenced the criminal justice system to pay more attention to actuarial justice and risk-centred approach which are consequential to unpredictable and conflicting crime policy alternating between punitive and devolutionary methods. The neo-liberal criminology of the self that is more associated with the risk-based situational crime prevention than the personality of the criminal. This same situational risk-based approached to criminality often emerged in different forms depending on the level of pressures present in neo-liberal politics (Brown & Pratt 2000, p.30).


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