Probation instead incarceration

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Incarceration is a condition whereby an offender is detained or confined in a place such as jail or prison for a certain period of time. This time span is dependent on the severity of the offense committed. This is done as a form of punishment or a corrective measure. According to the criminal justice system, both juveniles and adults, when found guilty of offenses are subject to incarceration. The major reason for incarceration is to seclude an offender from the other community members to avoid further destruction and negative influence. Besides, it is a corrective measure. Different individuals and organizations have had varied opinions regarding incarceration. These range from the process taken, its importance, the capability to transform the criminals and its relevance. The ethicality and morality in the process of incarceration are also in question. These concerns raised by individuals and independent bodies have made the state and the judicial system to look into other corrective measures which can substitute incarceration (Jones & Owen, 2017 p. 111).

Some of the alternatives to incarceration include, but not limited to the formation of rehabilitation centers, community service, electronic monitoring, conditional sentences, boot camps, restitution, house confinement, fines, the establishment of education sentencing programs and probation. This essay, therefore, focuses on probation as an alternative to prison or incarnation. Probation can be defined as the establishment of sanctions at a community level and other measures stated by the law intended to correct a criminal. It entails several activities ranging from supervision, guidance, and counseling, which is aimed at enhancing social inclusion of the criminal and achieving safety for the community.  Probation is implemented through probation agencies which have been designated by the law.

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Probation is an alternative to prison due to the many issues that are associated with the prisons. Prison overcrowding is a major issue encountered in the US. The rapid increase in prison populations and adjustments in sentencing are a contributing factor.  The behavioral and sociocultural changes regarding correction is another issue that has made prisons to seek alternatives ones (Currie, 2017 P. 34). Age is another major factor. Statistics show that people aged 65 years and above is the fastest growing population. With this demographic change and other correlational policies enacted, the rise in a number of older offenders is rapid. This comes with expenses on medication and care in the prisons, which is generally costly. The spread of infectious diseases such as sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS is rampant in the prisons and more inmates are at a high risk of contracting the infections.

Probation, just like other community correction mechanism, is handy to give remedy to some of these problems faced by inmates. According to Perlstein and Thomas (2014), the cost of probation is way cheaper compared to incarceration.  Annually, the cost of probation ranges between $700 and $1000 as opposed to $20000 for imprisonment, which becomes more in the case of women, juvenile and the elderly. Probation, therefore, saves the taxpayer a fortune.

In the event an employed individual is on probation, they stay in the community, continue with their employment as they continue to pay taxes. This is a source of revenue to the government. For the unemployed persons, training is offered during probation. This equips them with skills that eventually help them acquire jobs. This is a source of income to them, the source of revenue to the community and government at large. In addition, they may find ease in paying their court fines.

During imprisonment, first time or second-time offenders tend to interact with chronic offenders and this makes them no better. In the case of probation, however, they avoid getting further hooked on crime and instead become better persons in the society. For criminals who are married at the time of conviction, probation is advantageous in the sense that family integrity is maintained. Incarceration, on the other hand, would lead to disruptions, instability, and divorce eventually.

Probation, in the US, is under the department of corrections alongside prison administration. This, therefore, helps to cut costs by increasing the number of criminals on probation while simultaneously cutting the probation funding. Since probation is administered locally, its cost is shared ‘between the state and local government thus saving on the total cost, which would have been much greater were the individuals imprisoned.

In conclusion, probation is a solution for taking pressure off the prison system. Besides, it is of greater advantage to the state in terms of cutting down on expenditure which then should be used on development of other sectors. Probation also gives the judicial system a variety of options of punishment for the offenders since each has committed different offenses. Besides, it helps criminals bond with their community since there is no seclusion. They are able to go about their daily business as usual. Probation also helps individuals to become more responsible for their actions. This is because, during probation, as much as there is freedom, their actions and movements are monitored with a purpose for the change. Finally, I would argue that probation is a better solution to criminal justice compared to imprisonment. This is because, apart from the ‘conviction, one is able to be mentored by being trained on a skill. They also receive guidance and counseling which helps them become better persons in society.

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  1. Perlstein, Gary R, and Thomas R. Phelps. Alternatives to Prison: Community-based Corrections, a Reader. Pacific Palisades, Calif: Goodyear Pub. Co, 2014.
  2. Jones, Michael Owen. “eating behind bars: on Punishment, resistance, Policy, and Applied Folkloristics.” Journal of American Folklore 130.515 (2017): 72-120.
  3. Currie, Elliot. “Confronting the North’s South: On Race and Violence in the United States.” International journal for crime, justice and social democracy 6.1 (2017): 23-34.
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