The Crime-Control Effect of Incarceration: Does Scale Matter?
Your final paper is where you put all of your assignments together. Your final paper should have a new brief introduction that captures the reader’s attention and tell them what will be in the paper, and then the following sections: Policy Description & Literature Review, Analysis, and Recommendations. The paper should also have a new conclusion summarizing what you have done in the paper. You must have a minimum of 8 peer reviewed, scholarly journal sources that are properly cited both in-text and in the bibliography using the APA style. The final product should be at least 11 pages long, double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font. Proper in-text and bibliographic citation (APA style) is absolutely required.
This is a copy of my last paper.
Analysis and Recommendations
As already covered in the literature review, studies on the relationship between incarceration policy and crime reduction is yet to be clear for utilization by policymakers. In most cases, researchers agree that increased incarceration may perhaps have a positive effect on the reduction of crime rates. However, it is the scale of this action that has a limiting scope attached to it when empirical studies are carried. For instance, Stemen (2007) observes that a 10 percent increase in incarceration may lead to about 2 to 4 percent reduction in crime.
Moreover, further increases in the number of individuals being sentenced in prisons have further economic ramifications without necessarily helping in direct reduction of criminal activities or conduct. This study’s main concern was to review incarceration as a policy of crime reduction and recommend the best way forward. There are several findings made on this study mostly related to the two main concepts of deterrence and incapacitation as outlined in the following section.
Deterrence and Incapacitation
Mass incarceration continue to be a challenge even for modern societies with the US surprisingly leading in the number of individuals held in state and federal prisons estimated to be about 1.5 million by 2011 (Carson & Golinelli, 2013). As a result, there have been concerns raised as to whether incarceration, as a policy of crime reduction, has succeeded. As noted in the review section of this paper, the main area of debate has focused on the operational concepts of incarceration, which include deterrence and incapacitation. As defined by Liedka, Piehl & Useem (2006), deterrence refers to the action against crime through the introduction of legal sanctions.
In this way, there is an incentive to encourage non-criminal behavior among the population. On the other hand, incapacitation refers to the physical restraints directed towards criminals in order to eliminate further crime. In effect, both incapacitation and deterrence are meant to have direct positive effects on crime rates. By reducing the number of criminals roaming on the streets and introducing penalties for anyone found to be involved in such activities, the primary expectation is that crime rates should drastically drop. However, questions have been raised on whether this factor still holds when the scale of incarceration increases over time.
The Issue of Scale
The findings of this paper have raised several issues based on the linkage between scale of incarceration and crime rates in a given jurisdiction. First, results indicate that the effectiveness of incarceration in instances of increased crime may rely on a given jurisdiction. This means that this policy of crime reduction may not be universally effective. Generally, jurisdictions whose incarceration policy implementation are at advanced stages may face lesser challenges in crime reduction that their less developed peers. This is an obvious finding because it is expected that more developed systems of deterrence and incapacitation are likely to be more effective in fighting criminals.
As a result, it is safe to state that incarceration only works effectively in its earlier stages and as the number of prisoners continues to rise, it become ineffective as a measure of crime reduction. For instance Liedka, Piehl & Useem (2006) observe two states; Oregon and California with incarceration rates of 2.6 and 4.8 per 1000 respectively. In case of a 10 percent increase in prisoners for both states, Liedka, Piehl & Useem (2006) estimate that the two states will record a 0.4% and 0.2% decrease in crime rates. It is therefore true that scale is a factor in the success of any incarceration policy.
Secondly, there are findings that suggest that increased prison populations may be counterproductive. Even though there is a lot of work to be done to ascertain this relationship, this finding raises and interesting point on the issue of scale. Perhaps, it is important to consider other factors related to increased incarceration, which may include an overwhelmed judicial system, disorganized law enforcement and increased economic burden on tax payers. All these factors may together lead to laxity or ineffectiveness of this policy and hence an increase in crime instead of the expected drop.
Nevertheless, through use of various empirical models, Liedka, Piehl & Useem (2006) still find that the elasticity of crime reduces with scale. This implies that crime rates are marginally expected to decline with increased imprisonment. However, this finding does not provide a conclusive solution to the concerns that a rise in prison numbers may be detrimental to the expected outcomes of incapacitation and deterrence in the first place. Generally, the major question still on the minds of many policy makers and other observers alike is why would the number of criminals continue to increase even with more developed incarceration frameworks in place?
In addition, it has also been noted that West et al. (2010) also point out to the growing number of individuals being released annually after serving their sentences. Is incarceration as a policy effective in ensuring that these former prisoners are not getting involved in further crime and therefore negating the primary objective of this policy? All these questions can only be answered through a policy review as intended by this study.
Incarceration Policy Issues
The main issue raised against this policy is that it majors on control rather than prevention. As one of its main assumptions, it is usually expected that when individuals are found to be involved in criminal activities and punished through imprisonment, they eventually learn their lesson. However, this assumption may not be necessarily true in most cases since former prisoners are likely to face hurdles in the process of social and economic reintegration, which is likely to lead them into more crime. In addition, punishment is likely to backfire when prisoners of a lighter sentence were allowed to freely interact with hardcore criminals. Instead of them being rehabilitated, they are likely to change their behavior to the worst case scenario and even cause more trouble upon their release (West et al., 2010).
Secondly, incarceration policy should also be viewed in terms of the many factors that influence criminal behavior. Some of the main factors include economics, politics, demography and socio-cultural characteristics of individuals in a given jurisdiction. Consequently, even if a well conducted research is done, it is not true that its findings can be implemented in different locations without faults. Furthermore, studies conducted on the relationship between incarceration and crime rate may not be effective in predicting future linkages of the two factors.
Third, the content of punishment in most incarceration policies also continues to raise eyebrows. Whereas it is expected that imprisonment should lead to behavior change, this has not been guaranteed because of a generalization effect. Generalization effect refers to the common scenario in major prisons where hardcore criminals are likely to be mixed up with light offenders. Instead, it is important that policies include other forms of punishment and correction like rehabilitation, community service and probation. These alternatives ensure that law-breakers realize that they made mistakes are ready to take responsibility under the watchful eye of their community members rather than being locked up (West et al., 2010). All these issues raised on the current incarceration policy point out to the need for change.
The first and most important change needed is the shift towards alternative forms of punishment. Rehabilitation, community service and probation among others have been known to effective help petty-offenders reform and correct their behavior. In the end, there is a positive effect on crime control and prevention in different jurisdictions. Alternatives to incarceration also have massive impacts on the economy because they ensure that costs associated with holding up individuals in a single location are reduced.
Secondly, it is important that the focus be on crime prevention rather than incarceration, which is a reaction to existing crime. There are many ways prevention policies can be implemented in different jurisdictions depending on their cultural, demographic and social characteristics. In many cases, sensitization, uplifting of the underprivileged in societies and discouragement of criminal culture may succeed in preventing crime.