Community-Based Punishments

Having community based correctional punishments that are workable within a society is not only humane, but also the best way forward in dealing with social deviants at certain levels. Community based modes of correction give the offenders the chance to rectify their action by reprimanding them in a way that is not too stiff to offer them a chance to repeat that which they erred upon by repetition. This is not to say that repeat offences are not common, but that its a humane reprimand to apply community sentencing as a mode of changing behavior. Indeed, the policies enforced in the judicial system play a key role in the correction process.

As much as human beings are subject to err, they are as well subject to repeat the same action too. Different societies have different views on the type of crime committed. This is broken down into the social economic structures of a community, and consideration should be given at the aspects that contribute to the occurrence of the offence, its weight in the community and the societal repercussions, ass well as where it happened. Indeed, several states have also enacted on-going performance evaluation reviews to identify problem areas and fine-tune sentencing options (Nieto, 1996). Moreover, the myriad factors that contribute to successful community based programs are as diverse as culture is in the world.

Not only is community based correction good to the offender but is also cheap. Instead of having someone who has committed a misdemeanor to serve time in holding institution at the expense of the taxpayers, having him serve time on the outside while doing chores that are beneficial to the public is a plus even for the economy. The justice system should be given a hand to view and treat each case before it independently and seek the background of the individual in relation to the offence he has committed, as there are different motives to each crime (Raynor, 2007). Offenders are driven by different circumstances to commit crimes hence the need to avoid lumping them together in the prison system. Some offenders need be treated differently from others, with the pre-disposing factors and motive behind committing the crime being the determining factors.

What works for community punishments may as well have to do with the resolve of the offender as much as to the perception of the community into which he is sent to. No amount of leniency or psychiatrist help will deter a dishonest person from committing the same offence again even if he goes through the best laid down processes of community punishment. Likewise, the way a community views and treats a man makes a difference on whether he will alter his ways or not. To treat him as a thief will be conduit to shove him toward the path of recidivism.

The court systems too are backlogged with cases, thus community based system offers an alternative. With rising levels of petty crimes, the situation in the already overcrowded prisons is likely to get worse.  In addition, throwing people into jail for the slightest misdemeanor, simply because that is the way the public mood feels offenders should be dealt with, might mean building new prisons to take in the high number of offenders who qualify to serve prison time due to the publics sentimentalism. This, in the long run, proves costly and might not be the best way forward in curbing crime (Ginger, 2003).

Community based punishments are a way of keeping the offender out of serving sentence in a jail and at the same time punishing them for wrongs done, often misdemeanors. The success of community based forms of administering punishment depends on a myriad of factors that transverse the bare nature of the crime committed. Public opinion, the justice system, the age or motive of the offender and so much more are the factors that contribute to the success or failure of the penal justice system.
For the programs to work, the community has to work hand in hand with the justice system, for it is into the community the offender is being released to. Acceptance of the offender by the community or the attitude the offender is received largely determines the success of the program (Easton and Piper, 2005).

Community correction is an alternative to incarceration in holding institutions. By confining perceived offenders to holding institutions (where there are hardcore criminals) in a bid to correct them is a step too harsh seeing that in most jails, there are innocent elements that happened to stumble on the path of evidence and got caught in the web unbraiding a culprit, being pronounced guilty for crimes they dont know of yet the evidence unfairly went against them (Sanders and Young, 2006).

Community based punishment would go a long way to alleviate the injustices visited upon such individuals, at the same time protecting them from criminal elements. Incarcerating offenders gives those less likely to commit crimes the chance to share experiences with the hardcore ones, celebrating in their exploits and this is likely to drive up cases of repeat offenders, or recidivism.
Alternative crime prevention and correction measures may as well lie with the feelings of the people on what it entails, but the willingness of the political class to set policies that address the issue is too a significant factor in ensuring the success of the programs set to achieve these. In a study by Latessa and Holsinger (1998) people are probable to support programs geared toward community based correctional programs.

Public confidence in the system dictates whether it is workable as the judges are unlikely to give the option of community sentencing if they feel that the public will not agree to it (Maruna and King 2004, P 85). When community based programs have to incorporate aspects such as counseling, they tend to be expensive and governments might not be able to effectively meet the costs. This goes against the grain of the public who feel that they are paying taxes to maintain criminals who should be in jail.

Without the kind of total surveillance that comes with one being in prison, there is the probability that the offenders, if in community based punishment programs, might have the free run to commit other related crimes because no one is checking on them.

Recidivism in community based programs is also highly likely as the offenders, having received just a slap on the wrist for what misdemeanor they committed, might not take the punishment heavily or be remorseful of it and are bound to repeat it again because they know that the penalty is not that stiff after all.
With crime rates shooting at new highs, the workforce to professionally maintain community based punishment programs is overstretched. This leads to shoddy supervision, a laxity that makes it easy for the offenders to skive their duties hence go unpunished for their mistakes. This doesnt have the positive impact it needs have, as it means offenders walk off almost scot-free.

Also, without proper professional follow-up on the offenders, it is highly likely that offenders with a higher probability of repeating the said offence are likely to become sly and commit the offences unnoticed (Easton and Piper, 2005). This is not highly likely to people who have done a jail term on the same crime, as the tag that comes with serving a jail term makes the public acutely aware of the individuals they are dealing with and treats them with the caution they deserve unlike in a community based punishment system where the public is likely to be duped on the real character of the individual they are dealing with.

People abhor jails and the tag that comes with having been incarcerated. The fact that community based programs are lenient on the offenders, and in the light of the public are not seen to be as radical as a jail term, might lead to a rise in crime as others less inclined to commit an offence if faced with a jail term might commit the offence if it is only going to attract community based punishment.
On the other hand, critics argue that, it has not been researched to show how different people react to the same modes of rehabilitation methods. Applying a blanket methodology to all offenders without having looked at the physiological factors that made him commit the crime in the first place is laughable. Indeed, the reason why people act the way they do is based on factors such as culture and even education background.

The publics diffidence on matters that touch on prosecution and punishment may be a hindrance to actual implementation and execution of community punishment. Mostly, the publics view that is considered when dealing with the matter of community punishment is usually based not on concrete data or how the public views the subject of community based punishment but on intuition on how the public might react. Most of this is based on media reports that are at times inaccurate, and media report goes on to form public opinion. The core issue here is that the public is inclined to accept and create an atmosphere conducive for the erecting of structures that will lead to community punishment taking an effective face (Maruna and King, 2004, P. 84).

According to the Community Corrections Commission (2002), community service is the least utilized form of corrective mode for offenders in the United States.  The department found out that in other countries where community based punishment is practiced at an higher level for mid level offenders who were to serve or not serve jail terms, apart from the fact that community based programs are cheaper in the long run, the rates of recidivism are almost the same for those who served jail terms and those who passed trough community based punishment programs.  The Community Corrections Commission also reveals that where probation has been usurped by electronic house arrests, the tendency to repeat the offence is higher and more expensive than the traditional probation system hence the need for proper community based programs if crime levels and recidivism is to be brought down.

The Community Corrections Commission found that different types of offenders have different rates of repeating the crimes they were convicted of, or committing other forms of crimes. Low risk and medium risk delinquents were less likely to commit the crimes if they served their punishment in community based programs as opposed to serving their sentences in jail while high risk offenders, regardless of where or how they serve their punishment were opt to commit crime time and again. Indeed, low and medium risk offenders were more likely to resort to crime if they served long jail terms (Community Corrections Commission 18).

This brings in the question of whether jail terms are really necessary for people whose crimes are not a threat to the public safety, like social misfits who are likely to commit crimes whether they pass through prison or community punishment. This is where probation checks in to lower the cost of keeping such offenders in prison.

That offenders serving long jail sentences, especially those who are of low risk nature resort to crime as compared to those that served shorter terms or went through the community based service punishment program is a wake up call to the authorities. The message being sent here is that they might build as many jails as there are offenders but if the policy is to really lower crime rates then the community based punishment programs are the way forward as in them we see reduced crime rates.
The way policy is interpreted also matters. It seems policy makers act on theories that have not been subjected to public consensus and scrutiny, theories applied in board rooms and strategic meetings and coming up with views on what they purport the public believes while the truth is another matter altogether.

Laws should be reviewed. The worlds trends are changing and so are views on what mode of punishment should be meted out on specific misdemeanors. With new inventions come new crimes. The league man is trending is different from that he used to fifty years ago. Almost twenty years ago, cyberspace crime was hardly heard of in most countries of the world however, the vice is now in the most backward of third world countries. How to deal with such issues need be refined through thoughtful research and collaboration by all stakeholders as to the mode of retribution as some of these vices transcend borders (Smartt, 2007, P. 22).

Weighing the pros and cons, community-based punishment system of retribution is the way forward. The positive side of it is that it incorporates the participation of the community in defining the socially accepted behavior of the individual purported to have committed the offence. In addition, the punishment is more directed towards correction rather than punishment, thus tending to be more acceptable than jail term which is mostly associated with creation of some hardcore criminals.

Moreover, the community-based program provides deterrence to the offender while at the same time giving him the opportunity to continue with nation-building normal activities which are not only beneficial to the offender, but also to the community at large. Indeed, when sound and workable policies are incorporated in these programs, there is a likelihood of a cohesive society.


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