Punishment Philosophy

Punishment philosophies differ from person to person.  Victims and prosecutors alike each support a different view.  In some cases the punishment is too mild while in other cases it is too stringent.  Despite the many theories supporting both sides of the issue, the main focus throughout this writing will support the punishment fitting the crime committed.  Retribution and deterrence issues have long been pitted against rehabilitation.  For the purpose of this paper, special attention will be given to the crime of pedophilia as an example.  The current prison system is beyond over-run and almost depleted with respect to its effectiveness.  Justice, medical, and custodial models will be used to effectively evaluate punishments being handed down by the court system.  Ultimately, each model will be closely examined in order to determine which one is most needed in our prison systems today. 

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     The long-standing prison system in the United States is a direct result of punishment philosophy.  In the past, the most often heard of forms of punishment were that of physical torture and death.  Throughout the changing times, punishment evolved into reform and began to eliminate the use of physical torture to some extent.  A correctional system, also called a prison, is used to impose an unpleasant experience in order to correct malevolent behavior.  This is done so based on the system of beliefs set forth through the judicial system.  By housing inmates, the correctional system hopes to eliminate the undesired behavior and return the individual back into the community as a function and productive member of society (Alexander, 1922).  If a prisoner is a convicted pedophile, the model applied in order to achieve this goal is designed especially to meet the needs of the party, but there are no guarantees that it will be successful.

     Present day correctional institutions house many inmates, many of whom have been convicted of sex crimes.  Solitary confinement is often provided in order to protect the inmates physical safety.  Sentencing is viewed from the justice model standpoint.  Based on the nature and severity of the crime, many pedophiles are ordered to be imprisoned for very lengthy periods of time, but many are released early due to prison over-crowding.  The justice model provides that a deserving penalty be imposed in order to correct the wrongdoing (Farmer, 1992).  The justice model also provides contracted deterrence due to the fact that the inmate is locked away from society and is unable to re-offend.  Generally, the pedophile offender is kept incapacitated in a maximum security facility with little if any contact with any other human beings.  The main focus and goal of the justice model is to make sure that the offender realizes that the malevolent behavior committed within society is not acceptable and there will be serious consequences to follow.
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     The medical model supports the theory that physical, biological, or mental issues may have played a role in the undesired behavior of the offender which led to incarceration.  Supporters of the medical model believe that rehabilitation is critical.  Rehabilitation is thought to be able to restore a person to a useful and productive place within society.  However, the recidivism rate for pedophiles is an alarming 42 despite having received rehabilitation programs (Hanson, Steffy, and Gauthier, 1993).   Medical model supporters also include deterrence and incapacitation within their plan of action for success.  Retribution seems to be frowned upon in part due to the tougher penalties for specific offenders.  It would appear as though the supporters of the medical model prefer to have a separate list of penalties because certain offenders have medical, biological, or mental conditions.  The expectant goal of the medical model is to create an environment whereby an offender can learn to understand the physical, biological, or mental illness and learn to effectively control and treat it.  This is believed to prevent future criminal behaviors.

     As a result of the security needs of inmates and the psychological and physical reassurances needed by both the inmates and surrounding communities, the custodial model was designed.  The custodial model of punishment philosophy is bound by a more traditional penal complex consisting of high security.  It functions on a stringent retribution premise (Owen, 2010).  Inmates often complain of dirty living conditions, over-crowding, and mistreatment by staff, and sexual assaults.  Each complaint is investigated and addressed thoroughly and adequate measures are taken to remedy the problems.  Pedophiles are simply able to fall through the cracks within this model of justice.  Time is served on a daily basis and once completed, the door is open.  The primary goal of the custodial model is to simply provide separation between the

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offender and society (Raver, 2007).  The custodial model is societys way of allowing itself to receive restitution through vengeance.  By denying one freedom, justice is served.  It resembles a very well constructed time-out under strict authoritative conditions.

     The history of the prison system has changed over the many years of its existence.  Society must rely on a well orchestrated system of rules in order to prevent chaos.  Those who cannot follow the rules must face the consequences and sometimes spend time incarcerated away from the rest of society.  The justice, medical, and custodial model all differ in various ways.  The common goal of the three is to protect society and aid in the redevelopment of the inmate whether it is via rehabilitation or retribution and deterrence.  Pedophiles are a unique group of criminal offenders.  Their needs are more demanding, and their rehabilitation is vital to society as a whole.  While prisoners continue to complain about filthy living conditions and the like, it is equally noted that most prisoners live better than members of their surrounding communities.  Each prisoner is guaranteed three square meals a day, cable television, books, vocational training, education, and religious activities.  These do not include the often required group therapies, individual therapy, medical and dental treatment, and employment within the prison.  Punishment and its philosophy contained therein is ever-changing.  Changes are made only to continually meet the disciplinary needs of the offenders.  Punishment is a means of future success for an inmate, but it is rarely viewed that way from the inside.


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