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The US Correctional System Analysis


The main goals of any correctional system are to: punish the offender, protect society, and rehabilitate the offender. However, it is not very clear how well correctional systems attain these goals. Many countries have carried out drastic reforms in the way they handle lawbreakers. This essay is going to look at two methods that are used in the US correctional system, punishment and rehabilitation, and determine which one is the most effective in achieving the goals of correctional systems.

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Two Methods of Correctional System

For many years punishment has been the most obvious goal of many correctional systems including those in the US. Crime has been part of society for many tears and it is also known that along with crime, comes punishment. The horrors that occur in US prisons are not any different from the ancient methods of punishment. The forms of punishments used include violence, incarceration, incapacitation, methods that are not any better than those used in ancient times. The US correctional system uses isolation as a punishment whereby offenders are isolated in institutional prisons for safety, bad behavior, or in some cases, for mental issues, this is incapacitation. Just as what used to happen in ancient times, criminals in the use are isolated by society not just at the time of incarceration, but also after release where former inmates are stigmatized because of their criminal records. Incapacitation does not work because prisons are not removed from society completely; inmates are allowed to be visited. Many inmates end up back into society, bringing with them all the bad habits learned in prison (Pontell, 2003, p.10).

The US correctional system punishes inmates by stripping off their rights. Former inmates are denied welfare, college loans, public housing, and the right to vote. This pushes them out of mainstream society and makes them be isolated. Violence is also used as a form of punishment in US prisons. Violence is meted on inmates by prison gangs. Statistics show that many inmates are raped and abused in prisons. These inmates are therefore victims of violence. This shows that violence is incorporated in the US’s punishment of incarceration. Occasionally, prison officers use violence to punish or control inmates. Those who put in place such measures believed that if incarceration is a consequence of crime, then people will not want to go to prison and therefore will avoid crime. Many offenders come out of prison and commit other crimes. This means that the prison sentence did not deter them from committing a crime. Another form of punishment is retribution, whereby people seek revenge for crimes committed. Many believe that prison provides punishment, but this punishment is extreme. Retribution in US prisons is not fair because people who commit lesser crimes are put together with hardcore criminals who abuse them daily. Therefore the many injustices committed on inmates have made the goal of retribution as a punishment fail (Mackenzie, 2005, p. 3; Latesssa, 1997, p. 1).

The second form of correction that we will look at is rehabilitation. This was the original goal of correction whereby offenders are supposed to be sent to prison to be rehabilitated and come out as new and productive members of society. It is an attempt at converting lawbreakers into law-abiding citizens. Rehabilitation is planned and aims at changing some aspects of the offender that are thought to cause criminality. It aims at making sure that the offender does not repeat the crime. It changes the offender into a more useful person in society. In the US rehabilitation is done through life skills classes, job training, drug treatment programs, and many others. Many American prison facilities lack facilities to rehabilitate Criminals. One can easily predict that an offender who has done a prison sentence then released, with no education, no job training, or has not been counseled, will do the offense again. Halfway houses are also used as a form of rehabilitation in the US. These are usually located in residential communities to keep offenders close to the community. This works because sometimes sending offenders to prison only serves to worsen the problem. Through such institutions, members are reintegrated back into society (Gullen & Gendreau, 2000, p. 1).


All these, therefore, show that the best way of treating criminals is through rehabilitation. Many people who have gone through the correction system in the US know only about punishment and suffering. People can not be treated like animals then be expected to act like men. Correctional facilities are meant to bring change into the lives of criminal offenders and make them positive contributors to society. Many of the criminal offenders come from a background that has cultivated a bad attitude within them hence the need for guidance and counseling. These tough methods of treating offenders have been tested over time and have not given good results. There is a need to focus more attention on the rehabilitation process than punishing the prisoners. Prisoners will go back to society equipped with the skills and confidence to move on in life. The method of punishing offenders and dumping them out at the end of their sentence with no education, home to go to, only with a bus ticket out of prison does not help. This is house the US correction system treats criminals and that’s why many of them go back. They feel like animals and therefore prison is better because it offers them a roof over themselves and no stigma from society. Once someone has been rehabilitated and done his time, he will have paid what he owes to society and therefore should be accepted back unconditionally.


Cullen, T., & Gendreau, P. (2000). Assessing Correctional Rehabilitation; Policy, Practice, and Prospects: Policies, Processes, and Decisions of the Criminal Justice System, 3(1), 1-23.

Latesssa, E. J. (1997). What works in correction intervention? Southern Illinois University Law Journal, 23(1), 1-5.

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Mackenzie, D. L. (2005). What works in corrections? Reducing the criminal activity of offenders. Web.

Pontell, H. (2003). A capacity to punish. New York, NY: Prentice Hall.

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