Criminal Justice: Prison and Jail System
Prison litigation refers to cases filed by inmates in the public courts of law. The number of prison litigation in the 1980’s skyrocketed to 23,230 filed in the US district courts under the Title 42 within the Federal Statute. The number increased by 49% in the 1996 an aspect that necessitated the Congress to pass the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) to reduce the number of cases (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2014). The PLRA has two pillars, which are the prospective relief provision and the prisoner litigation provisions.
The two pillars have three major facets that hold the prison litigation in place. The prisoners need to go through all the administrative channels before going to the federal courts. Secondly, prisoners filing forma pauperis are required to pay the courts and filing cost via their funds that are present in the correctional trust fund. Lastly, the prisoners are not permitted to file forma pauperis if they have filed cases that have were terminated by the courts due to malevolence (Campbell, 2009).
The PLRA amendments served to benefit one party that is the courts by reducing the number of cases in the courts but were disadvantageous to the prisoners. The amendment makes it difficult for the prisoners to be guaranteed fair hearing in the federal and state courts. The amendment provides a long chain for the prisoners to follow before they file their cases in the court termed as exhaustion requirement.
According to Margo Schlanger who has done research on the impact of PLRA, she discovered that most of the cases filed within the system are discarded for frivolous issues. Some of them include missing a deadline, filing the documents with red ink or attaching medical records to support their claims in their submissions. The aspect makes it harder for the prisoners to not only file their cases but also win them (Sullivan, 2013). The legal system needs to make sure that the rights of all citizens by the fact that they are human beings are upheld, but inmates are shunned under the pretext of the PLRA.
The second effect is that it does limit the number of experienced lawyers willing to represent the prisoner. The reason for this is that the PLRA does limit the contingent rates that the lawyers can recover to 150% of the judgment and the hourly fees to 150% of the appointed counsel rates by the courts. This aspect coupled with the fact that the chances of winning are minimal deters them from taking the cases hence placing the inmates at a disadvantageous point.
Based on Booker (2016), only 5% of the cases involving inmates in 2012 was represented by lawyers when compared to 65% of the cases involving non-incarcerated individuals. The disparity reduces the chances of the inmates to get a fair trial and have an equal chance of winning the cases filed against the system.
Thirdly, the policy restricts the inmates from recovering from mental or emotional injury without proving a physical injury took place. In the prison case scenario, inmates are at times coerced into sex, discriminated against regarding religion, ethnicity among other violations within the constitution that do not involve physical injury. The prison and the legal system have a duty of ensuring such aspects do not occur, and in the case, they do the perpetrators face punishment. Based on this aspect the inmates end up adopting violence as a coping mechanism in the harsh environment while some commit suicide as a way of escaping their torture (Bark, 2014)
Prisons are areas where the criminals are expected to reform, but with the PLRA the reform involves infringing immensely on their rights as human beings. The courts have minimal authority when it comes to altering the prison policies to protect the inmates. The incapacitation of the courts gives more power to the administrators to set up more hurdles when the inmates are filing their cases (Schlanger and Shay, 2008). The increase in procedures and policies set do frustrate the inmates as it limits the chances of addressing their grievances.
According to Schlanger and Shay (2008) jails play an integral role in the criminal justice system as they hold inmates as they await their trial, sentencing or charges. The jails serve to separate the criminals from the innocent people in the society. The aim of the separation is to keep the society safe from the criminal who wants to create havoc. Jails are typically run by the local government while others by cities or managed by people privately through contracts with the local government
The jail system holds criminals who have done petty offenses or those serving a sentence of less than one year. The inmate, in this case, is run through a system that will help them change their perspective on life, in other words, make them fit in the society. Jail system has a rehabilitation program that does give the inmates skills that will enable them to get employment after their sentence (Terry, 2009).
Furthermore, the jails decongest the state prisons hence ensuring manageable numbers. The USA as an estimate of 3,300 jails that hold 1/3 of 2 million inmates, the number has increased tremendously over the years due to the lifestyle changes in the society. It is true that there is a negative correlation between the rate of criminal increase and the jails in the country resulting in overcrowding in the system (Sullivan, 2013).
I believe the jail system is necessary as it does deter people from engaging in crime. The harsh conditions in the present jail system make many people rethink their decision to commit a crime. Moreover, the jail system does punish the criminals by taking away some privileges they enjoyed in the free world and aid them in reforming. Retribution is part and parcel of the jail system as it saves to bring a reformed individual to the society.
Three punishment and incarceration theories form the basis of treatment programs they include utilitarian, retributive and denunciation. The utilitarian theory focuses on punishing the criminals to serve as a lesson to them and other members of the society. Under the utilitarian theory, offenders go to jail or prison to deter them from engaging in the same crime for a period (Mallik, 2014). When they are under the system, the system does introduce harsh living conditions that will make them regret their mistake.
The regret is what leads to the next step, which is rehabilitation. Rehabilitation deals with treating mental illness, violent behavior, and drug dependency. It also does incorporate educational skills that give the inmates skills and knowledge that will enable them to get jobs when they integrate into the society (Schlanger and Shay, 2008).
The second treatment program focuses on the retributive theory where the criminal gets punished for their offense (Mallik, 2014). In the USA, some states still have the capital punishment for offenders. The capital punishment serves to punish the offenders for the crime they committed and does give justice to the victims. The severity of the issue does make many potential offenders abstain from engaging in any criminal activity that will cost them their lives (Gottschalk, 2006).
The last one is the denunciation whereby the society subjects an individual to societal condemnation (Mallik, 2014). An example is when someone gives out information to a competitor in the business world. The publication of their name in the newspapers and the media serves to condemn them for their actions, and the business industry will shun their serves.
Treatment programs serve as a means of reforming the criminals into productive citizens. The programs give the criminals a second chance to achieve their potentials which do result in the growth of the nation. The treatment programs give the society an opportunity to deter potential criminals from engaging in crime. The major disadvantage is that managing the programs is costly and does add an immense burden to the state and federal system (Lowenkamp, Latessa and Smith, 2006).
Based on my analysis, I can conclude that they are necessary for ensuring that the victims get justice and the offender gets punished for their offense. The treatment programs provide the society with an opportunity to move forward from a negative event in their lives.
Correctional system in the USA has undergone many amendments with the aim of formulating means to reduce the over congestion in the prisons and jail system. The first correctional policy is the reduction in the harsh sentences within the criminal judicial system. Many states in the USA have eradicated capital punishment in preference for the rehabilitation sentences (Lowenkamp et al., 2006).The adoption of the utilitarian approach with the aim of appearing democratic has increased the number of offenders hence increasing the number of inmates in the system.
Secondly, the AB 109 also known as the realignment bill serves the purpose of diverting the risk of punishing low-risk offender to the counties from the state. It also altered the three strikes law……” where the defendant convicted of any new felony, having suffered one prior conviction of a serious felony to be sentenced to state prison for twice the term otherwise provided for the crime…,’’ (California’s Three Strikes Sentencing Law – criminal_justice, 2017).
The AB 109 does increase the chances of criminals viewing the system as being lenient hence increasing their chances to engage in serve crimes. An example of the negative impact of this is the shooting of Whittier police officer Keith Boyer by an offender who was on a locally supervised probation instead of jail (Realignment (AB 109) in California, 2017).
The third correctional policy is the hands-off doctrine that eliminated the supreme court’s involvement in prison operations. The policy has resulted in the correctional facilities being under the direct control of the administrators. In the case, an inmate feels offended by the jail system and want their grievances addressed the long channels tend to limit them from getting justice (Gendreau, Goggin, and Smith, 2000). The hands-off policy is closely tied to the denunciation theory where the society does shun the inmates, in this case, the administrators. The aspect as resulted in the increase in violence in various jails and prisons around the country.
As discussed in this paper there is a conflict of goals that tend to affect the future corrections system. Different states apply different correctional policies when it comes to dealing with offenders. The drive is often political, civil or economic pressures faced by the legislature. The conflict in goals leads to lenient policies that favor one party while ignoring the other party directly or indirectly involved in a crime.
The second challenge is getting adequate funding. The correctional facilities in the current are underfunded by the federal and the state government. In 2016, the total budget allocated to the correctional facility was $71 billion which is not proportional to the high number of inmates in these facilities.
Thirdly, the correctional facilities have understaffed an aspect that makes it difficult to enroll the correctional programs fully. The aspect results in the offenders viewing jail term as a break from their real lives instead of a period to reform. The perception has led to the increase in the number of second-time offenders across the country (Gottschalk, 2006).
Lastly, there is a lack of proper coordination between the different agencies involved in the criminal justice system when it comes to correctional activities. The lack of a seamless flow of information on how to reform the inmates and decongest the system has rendered the correctional system ineffective (Gendreau et al., 2000).
In conclusion, the future seems bleak in the correctional system if the legislature and the society do not take a step to work together. The joint effort will enable the future generations to grow up with morals and the institution of progressive correctional policies that will reduce the rate of crime in the country.
Bark, N. (2014). Prisoner mental health in the USA. Int Psychiatry, 11, 53-5.
Booker, M. (2017). 20 years is enough: Time to repeal the Prison Litigation Reform Act | Prison Policy Initiative. Prisonpolicy.org. Retrieved 1 July 2017, from https://www.prisonpolicy.org/blog/2016/05/05/20years_plra/
Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Dep’t of Justice, (2014). Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems.
California’s Three Strikes Sentencing Law – criminal_justice. (2017). Courts.ca.gov. Retrieved 2 July 2017, from http://www.courts.ca.gov/20142.htm
Gendreau, P., Goggin, C., & Smith, P. (2000). Generating rational correctional policies: An introduction to advances in cumulating knowledge. Corrections Management Quarterly, 4, 52-60.
Gottschalk, M. (2006). The prison and the gallows: The politics of mass incarceration in America. Cambridge University Press.
Lowenkamp, C. T., Latessa, E. J., & Smith, P. (2006). Does correctional program quality really matter? The impact of adhering to the principles of effective intervention. Criminology & Public Policy, 5(3), 575-594.
Mallik, A. (2014). Theories of Punishment in the Ethics of Philosophy. Scholarly Research Journal for Humanity Science & English Language.
Realignment (AB 109) in California. (2017). Shouselaw.com. Retrieved 2 July 2017, from http://www.shouselaw.com/realignment.html
Schlanger, M., & Shay, G. (2008). Preserving the rule of law in America’s jails and prisons: The case for amending the Prison Litigation Reform Act.
Sullivan, K. T. (2013). To free or not to free: Rethinking release orders under the prison litigation reform act after Brown v. Plata. BCJL & Soc. Just., 33, 419.
Terry, C. (2009). Prison Litigation and What It Means To You as a Corrections Professional. Corrections.com. Retrieved 1 July 2017, from http://www.corrections.com/news/article/22872-prison-litigation-and-what-it-means-to-you-as-a-corrections-professional
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