History of Corrections

Topics: Criminal law, Crime, Sentence Pages: 6 (1751 words) Published: June 14, 2013
History of American Corrections

The corrections system in America began mostly with the arrival of William Penn and his “Great Law.” This was back in 1682; the “Great Law” was based on humane principals and also focused on hard labor as a punishment. The corrections system really began to take hold in North America in the late 1700’s with the idea’s and philosophy of Beccaria, Bentham, and Howard. These philosophies were based on the thought that prisoners could be treated and reformed back into society. This hard labor was used as an alternative to other cruel forms of punishments that were used in earlier times such as physical abuse or even brutal death.

In 1790 came the birth of the Penitentiary in Philadelphia. The penitentiary was different than other systems in that it isolated prisoners, “ …isolated from the bad influences of society and one from another so that, while engaged in productive labor, they could reflect on their past miss-deeds…and be reformed,” (Clear, Cole, Reisig). The American penitentiary and its new concept was observed and adopted by other foreign countries. The Pennsylvania system of the penitentiary was based on inmate isolation so that they could ponder their past behavioral choices. In this system the inmates were confined to labor on their own. In New York they had a different system, known as the Auburn system. This system differed from the Pennsylvania system because inmates would come together during the day to do their work and labor but were otherwise held in isolation.

In the early 1900’s a group of progressives sought to reform the ways of the corrections system. Their ideas about the cause of crime were more centered around the social, economic, and psychological pressures on people. The progressives brought up programs that were discussed in 1870 at the Cincinnati meeting. These programs included probation, parole, and other indeterminate sentences that are still used in corrections today.

As we can see the penitentiary system has changed over the years. As we advance and learn more as a society, we are able to fine tune these programs for all parties involved. Overall, the key point of all of these systems and the ultimate goal is public safety. Keeping our people safe and moving in a peaceful direction is essential to our society.

Goals of Corrections

The corrections system in the U.S. has five main goals when dealing with criminal sanctions. Originally the system had four main goals: Retribution, Deterrence, Incapacitation, and Rehabilitation. Later on there was much focus placed on a fifth goal: Restorative and Community Justice. These goals are designed to be effective toward different types of criminals and a combination may be used in many cases.

Retribution, also known as Deserved Punishment, is much like the old saying “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”(Clear, Cole, Reisig). Basically this is a punishment where the severity of the sentence should fit the severity of the crime. If a criminal has done wrong to someone then they deserve to feel that same wrong doing.

There are two types of Deterrence used in corrections. The first is just a general deterrence, which is a method of using punishments and making them visible to the public with the goal of deterring others in the public from wanting to commit crime. Public hangings were once used as this type of deterrence. The other type is directed toward the criminal in hopes that they will not repeat crimes in the future. The punishment is to be severe enough to discourage any future criminal activity. This type is called Specific Deterrence. “Deterrence theory contends that if the public knows the consequences of deviance, many individuals will not commit a crime” (Long).

Incapacitation is typically understood as the detainment of a criminal. The goal of incapacitation is to keep criminals from being able to commit further crimes. There are several different...

References: Clear, T. R., Cole, G. F., & Reisig, M. D. (2011). American Corrections, Sixth Edition. In T. R. Clear, G. F. Cole, & M. D. Reisig, American Corrections, Sixth Edition . Belmont: Cengage
Long, Russ. (August 29, 2008). Introductory Sociology, Crime and Deterrence.
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