If we assess the problems with administrating justice and sentencing within a democratic context, then these issues pale into insignificance when compared to those which concern punishment rehabilitation. The reason for this is that any prison sentence or consequence that is passed down within a democratic rule must be dual purpose, and need to provide a delicate balance between legitimate punishment and rehabilitating the perpetrator.
It is this balance which epitomizes a slight weakness within the armory of democracy, as it attempts to serve as many citizens as possible and in a vast number of individual ways. This aspiration is integral to the ideal of democracy, but it can occasionally create a situation where an individual goal or target can fall short of expectations. In terms of rehabilitation, this means that where a prison environment Is too lenient, a criminal is neither encouraged to repent or reform for their misdemeanors.
Can Punishment and Rehabilitation be Carried out Simultaneously?
This raises an interesting point with regards to the separate entities of punishment and rehabilitation, and whether they can be carried out simultaneously. Although they are individual concepts in their own right, they are closely linked in terms of their relationship and relevance to a perpetrator of crime, and any punishment administered must be harsh enough to provoke thought, remorse and ultimately a desire to reform. Where this punishment fails to be efficient, criminals are far less inclined to modify their behavioral patterns.
This maybe a fault within the current justice system, as prison institutions could well be considered to be too lenient in some aspects of their ethos and rule. This situation has evolved out of perceived knowledge, which dictates that the hostile environment of prisons in Asia and the Far East are the least conducive to rehabilitation, and suggests that a more welcoming and encouraging prison environment is likely to educate and rehabilitate criminals.
However, prisons built within a democratic rule may well have gone too far towards leniency and encouragement, to the point where any length of sentence is not deemed as a change evoking punishment. We are then faced with an quandary, and the question as to whether a convicted individual’s punishment and rehabilitation can be carried out simultaneously. It may be more suitable for a felon to serve 2 independent and separate stages of their sentence, one which accounts for a period of punishment and a subsequent stage to assist in educating them and reforming their behavior.
Good Behavior in Prisons and Reward
There are several features of the judicial system which contribute to prisons being viewed as lenient or liberal. One of these is reduced sentencing for consistent good behavior in institutions, whereby a sentence set and regulated by a judge can may not be served in its entirety if a criminal displays good conduct while incarcerated. This may be implemented with a view to encouraging good and considered behavior, but it seems overly lenient for a felon to serve only a fraction of a warranted sentence simply for displaying civilized and good natured conduct.
Of course, there are underlying issues which drive such specific measures, and a generally overcrowded prison population is one which remains significant. This is a problem which effects many large and western countries, with the US and the UK especially burdened in terms of the ratio of prisoners to facilities. In instances like this, government and justice officials are forced to strive to alleviate the prison population, however some measures can only serve to be to the detriment of society as a whole.
Where the ideal of a prisoner being rewarded for good conduct is at best tenuous, the concept is further complicated when it is well known and accepted amongst the criminal fraternity. As time and knowledge as evolved, certain criminals have strived to behave well and with due consideration for others simply to secure a reduced sentence, and not as part of a desire to reform their character. Despite this, the rule persists and often see’s career criminals
serving less prison time than their initial crimes deserve.
Does the US Require a More Rigid Justice System?
Logistics and reality often hinder ideals, and this is merely a fact of democratic rule. However, a law or condition is only as effective as its intention, and where a stipulation exists to help reduce prison numbers so too criminals are being allowed to serve lesser sentences or more comfortable prison time. While rewarding good behavior may serve one issue within contemporary prisons, it also creates an overly lenient environment for criminals to subsist.
The idea then becomes divisive, and is a perfect example of how it is difficult to protect society effectively while punishing and rehabilitant the perpetrators of crime. It may suggest that aspects of the US judicial system may require consideration, and also that a more rigid and structured approach to sentencing may also benefit society as a whole. While this would separate a sentence into periods of punishment and rehabilitation, it would help define a prisoners time in an institution and ensure that a genuine process is followed strictly.