Posted by admin at November 23, 2014

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Are Community Corrections a success?


Community corrections are an integral part of the corrections systems. Yes it can be said that community corrections are successful in offering some very good and viable alternatives of incarceration to the offenders at the different stages of the criminal justice system. The community correction programs are a much more improved version over the traditional correction programs on humanitarian grounds. They are successful as they give the offenders certain viable alternatives that shall let them live their lives in a peaceful manner.

Their success can be gauged from the fact that the community correction programs offer many opportunities and are more responsive to the requirements of the offenders, the communities and the victims. As we list the many benefits of the community based corrections programs the general public does not really accept the program due to various reasons. The general public has not accepted the many community correction programs like probation, day and full parole, fines, intermittent prison sentences and finally temporary absences.

It’s only in the past 30 years that community corrections have come on to becoming a very important part of the whole corrections system. There are quite a lot of debates around the utility of the corrections system. The attempt underneath the community corrections movement is the need to reduce over reliance on the methods of incarceration; this is achieved by giving the less serious offenders a chance with the alternatives of community program. The proponents of the community corrections programs alternatives propose that all these alternatives are much more successful and are much better alternatives to traditional incarceration.

Cohen’s Concept of ‘net widening’

Cohen(1985)had very recently proposed the phenomenon of net widening that has the result of attempts in reducing the scope of the formal criminal justice system. This is done through different procedures like diversion, decriminalization and deinstitutionalization. A very important premise of the analysis of net –widening is that it is an unintentional consequence of very broadly based and also a ‘destructuring’ movement which is also theoretically homogenous. The term net- widening is used within the context of critical criminology and is used to describe the effects of providing any of the alternatives to any diversion or incarceration programs so that the offenders can be directed away from the court. He has argued that there were contradictory and competing perspectives as to how the destructuring alternatives can be constituted. Cohen was the Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the renowned London School of Economics.

Foucault’s concept of the ‘carceral network’

Foucault (1995) had spoken about the ‘carceral network’ in his book Discipline and Punish. The writer has spoken about the work on the many surveillance systems and the use of the technologies over the existing modern societies. It also emphasized on the practice of discipline and social control over the many populations in the different areas of the social life. Foucault speaks about Mettray which is a very famous carceral institution. He suggested a completely new way of viewing the carceral system and the acceptance of the system points to a triumph that law of the norm is the supreme one. The carceral system is extremely powerful than the others. However Foucault has tried to instill in us some hope that change shall happen. Foucault has tried his best in not inspiring any kind of a rebellion against the present existing and a very modern disciplinary system but has tried to promote a deep down understanding of the many components and its operation.

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(Corrective services Figures n.d.) Have also suggested some interesting findings. As per the figures from the 2005 data about 80.5% of all the orders had a very successful completion of the Community Corrections Orders. The statistics of the 2006 data had an up successful completion of the community corrections orders and as a percentage it stood at about 81.6%. 2007 statistics that come out in April, 2007 had a decline of the successful completion of the community corrections orders. April, 2008 corrections also showed an increase in the successful completion of the community orders and the percentage stood at about 81.0%. The statistics from May 2009 suggested the successful completion of orders at 80.6%. 2009 again showed a slight decline in the successful completion of all the various types of orders at 20.0%.

2010 showed a slight increase in the successful completion of all the orders at 81.3%. 2010-2011 again had a slight decrease of about .2% and it stood at 81.1% on the successful completion of all the orders. 2011- 2012 data stood at a decrease at 79.7% on the successful completion of all the orders. Although these figures might not be fully accurate but the successful completion of all the orders is a confirmation that community corrections are surely a success. There is hope and ground for improvement but that can be done with sustained and planned efforts.

Pratt (2000) has delved deep down into the investigation of the history of punishment as the gradual shift from a dramatized carnival of punishment that takes place at public executions to a privatized and a non dramatic punishment. He has tried to emphasize an important shift towards the government that unintentionally or otherwise assumes a kind of a strong leadership role which is above the public opinion. In his book Pratt has analyzed a very strong and an invoked relationship between the condemnation or the justification of the society’s penal arrangements and the concept of civilization. His stance revolves around the fact that any civilized society does embodufy a very enlightened rationalism that is bureaucratic in nature. Hence the punishment that is meted out to the offenders is a revelation of how civilized a society is.

The text is a history of the punishment in the English speaking world beginning from the 19th century up till the present times. The work also examined the characteristics of any framework of punishment that went on to assume some very ‘civilized’ qualities in this time. He mentions what can happen in such a society where the process of civilization combine in a particular way and what shall happen when it does unravel. There is very little reference to black prisoners, to subaltern prison populations, juvenile offenders and women prisoners.

VERA Institute of Justice (2013) had very clearly pointed out to the effectiveness of community corrections. It said that community corrections supervise all those people who fall under the authority of the criminal justice system but are not serving jail sentence. It states that although mass incarceration does get much more media attention than anything else but what is known very less is about the state of the community corrections. Community corrections are less costly than the costs incurred in incarceration.

The article has emphasized on the fact that although the size and the costs related with prisons and jails has grown the investment for incarceration has not yielded the necessary results on public safety. Community corrections are a big opportunity for all those who wish to examine the overreliance on the systems of institutional corrections- the incarceration that happens in the jails and the prisons. We also need to reconsider the role that community corrections have to play in incarceration. The community based corrections are successful because they encompass within them pretrial supervision, parole and probation. Community corrections have a lot of capacity in them to bolster the concept of corrections and provide a whole new dimension to the concept of incarceration.

Hanser Robert (2013) speaks about community corrections as having public safety as the top most priority and moves on to explain the program evaluation, the future trends and the various evidence based practices that are a possibility with community corrections. Offender reintegration is an inherent part of community corrections. Hanser stresses on the need of punitive measures in corrections to a system that is integrated. He informs that community corrections has become an updated aspect of corrections and also uses the latest state of the art technology and its applications.

In the past many decades community corrections have become an integral part of the criminal justice systems. All the community corrections programs are a viable alternative from deterrence and sanction to intervention and assessment strategies which serve in addressing the protective factors and the offender’ risk. The increasing incarceration rates put a lot of fiscal burden on the budget. How effective community corrections are can be gauged from the many evaluation criteria’s like:

a. Who the clients of community corrections are?
b. What is the exact effectiveness of community corrections programs
c. The effectiveness of each of the community corrections services.
d. The effectiveness of each of the community corrections component
e. What are the most prevalent combinations of services and communities that the offenders get to participate in? What is the effectiveness of all such combinations?

Posted by admin at November 23, 2014

Category: Uncategorized

The Link between Mental Illness and Violent Offending

In many cases, mental illness has been associated with violence and crime. Several studies have identified a link between mental illness and violence. The justifiability of this link, however, has been under heated debate among scholars and even psychiatrists. The question of what really makes mentally disturbed people at such a high risk of violent offending has elicited deeper probe into other factors that may contribute to a person’s behavior. These factors are both personal and environmental; thus, the level of the probability to be at a risk of violent offending of a mentally ill person is determined by other social factors. Primarily though, it has been established that the sole state of having a mental illness contributes a lot to violent offending. While it is possible to treat major psychoses like schizophrenia using traditional treatment methods, other factors such as Neuro-cognitive impairment, personality disorders and substance abuse are not responsive to the procedural mental health treatment. This paper seeks to explore on whether “people with mental health problems are at increased risk of violent offending”

Research that was done in the recent past shows a definite link between mental illness and criminal activity. According to a particular research conducted on the United States incarceration system, there is a prevalence of many criminal offenders being diagnosed with various types of mental disorder. Even though not all people with mental disorders are at a risk of violent offending, particular types of mental illnesses are predictive violent actions. According to this research, the factors that relate to mental illnesses are responsible for criminal behavior. If these conditions could be maintained, then the criminal justice system will deal with a reduced number of offenses committed by mentally disturbed criminals. The study also reveals that serious problems may arise that hinder full execution of justice. In this case, individuals who may be schizophrenic are capable of killing, yet they cannot be equated to rational killers. Hence, it is important to address other factors that relate to mental illness (Markowitz, 2011).

According to another research, serious mental illnesses are associated more with crime. In the general population, statistics shows that the percentage of persons who are victims of serious mental illness is relatively lower compared to their percentage in provincial and federal institutions. However, increased likelihood of violent offending is associated more with mental illness where other factors contribute (Treloar, 2010). Such factors may include earlier life experiences and current lifestyle. For instance, if one was brought up in abusive family’s chances of associating with violent offending are high compared to those children who have grown up in peaceable, loving families.

Moreover, other studies have also established that there are many cases of antisocial personality disorder in many correctional facilities. Various psychiatrists have established that this case can be explained by learning the nature of those suffering from antisocial personality disorder. These individuals do not conform to social values and norms and thus do not find any difficulty in breaking for them. In this condition, deceitfulness, aggressiveness, irritability and impulsivity is the norm. In many cases, those individuals suffering from antisocial personality disorder resist arrest in a situation where they have to be convicted (Anderson, 1997).

Much focus on the criminal justice system is on those individuals suffering from schizophrenia and other forms of psychosis. Other forms of mental disorder such as post traumatic stress disorder can be easily controlled. Several studies also reveal that there is an undeniable link between violent offending with prior victimization of those suffering from mental illness. As such, these individuals are likely to be the victims and hence have to find a way to survive. Some engage in substance abuse in an effort to cover their vulnerability. This is due to the state of their mental health. In fact, in this argument, it is more likely that people who are mentally disturbed often end up as victims of either non-violent or violent crimes. In other cases, these individuals become victims of both. This study establishes that the fact that people with mental illness end up as victims of crime is the main reason they are at a risk of violent offending (Brink, Doherty & Boer, 2001).
In a research done on the frequency of offending, it was found out that those people with psychiatric disorders alone did not contribute significantly to increased rate of crime. As a matter of fact, substance abusers were likely to contribute more to the increase and repeated offending compared to those people that suffered from psychotic disorders alone. This entailed substance use disorder in cases where there either was or was not a co-occurring psychiatric disorder. In a more detailed account, engagement with psychiatrists in repetitive offending established a common factor in all recurring criminal behavior, despite the mental state. The drive behind recurring criminal behavior is the same in all criminals. This drive is associated with factors such as antisocial associates, personality disorders, neurocognitive impairments and environments (Hodgins, 1992).

Substance abuse, mental disorder and violence are more common in socially disorganized places. Socially disorganized communities are also associated with a high frequency of impaired social support and stressful living conditions. In such communities, those people who are severely mentally disturbed learn the art of violence just as their fellow citizens who do not have any mental illnesses. People who are released from the justice system end up in the same communities where they engaged in violent offending. If these individuals were involved in violent offending of those mentally disturbed, their victims will feel threatened and engage further in violent offenses as a way of protecting themselves. Through this research, it is evident that other factors contribute more to violent crimes other than sole psychiatric disorders. The environment which these mentally disturbed people grow up in, contribute a lot to cases of violent offenses (Engel & Silver, 2001).

Many studies on the relationship between violence and serious mental illness have revealed that even though violent acts committed by mentally disturbed people, are explained more by factors that are predictive of violence as in those people without a mental disorder, there is a one-in-ten chance where the violence is directly linked to their mental disorder. In such situations, mental disorder is in other terms, the reason why these people engage in violent offending. With violence being associated with psychosis, more serious violence has been associated with situations where an individual takes long to receive treatment. The more an individual stays without receiving treatment, the more the treatment will have low levels of efficacy. This virtualy stands as one of the reasons as to why why people are urged to seek immediate treatment if certain symptoms have been identified. In some other cases, this situation becomes unmanageable, and the individual gets out of control (Becker, Constantine, Andel & Boaz, 2011).

The group of offenders with serious mental disorders is relatively small in the society. However, the extreme nature of the crimes such people commit is shocking. People with serious mental illness may be serial killers or terrorists. Even though early treatment is highly recommended, it still remains evident that the identification of these types of criminals prior to the crime is extremely difficult. Some appear to be harmless individuals who are peaceful and sane. The problem with this kind of situation arises when violent crimes are committed during relapse. Some people with mental illnesses secretively go off their medications. At most times, violent offending will occur at moments when symptoms start manifesting.

Convicts with mental illness are also at a high risk of recidivism. A study done on federal prisons in Australia revealed that 1/3 of the prison population were people with mental health prisons. This entailed people who engaged in substance abuse. As in 2010, 31% of prison inmates had been diagnosed with mental health problems. These individuals were also reported to be receiving mental health treatment during their time in prison. Through this study, it is evident that people with mental health problems are associated with continuous crime.

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Several studies have revealed that socioeconomic factors also contribute to the predictability of violence among people with mental disorders. In another study conducted in 2010, it was found that those people who came from poorer backgrounds and were diagnosed with mental illness were more likely to engage in crime compared to those mentally ill individuals who come from relatively well-off backgrounds (Fazel, Singh, Doll & Grann, 2012). This would be explained by the fact that it is more challenging for the poor to access medical care than the rich. It is evident that this factor is not negligible through several findings that prisoners in a poorer state of health were associated with poorer backgrounds. Coupled with socially unstable residences, the probability of engaging in crime would be higher in these prisoners compared to other inmates who committed crime for fun.
After analyzing several studies done on the relationship between violence and mental illness, it is clear that strategic measures need to be put in place to reduce the chances of future crises. Certain strategies must be used so as to ensure that mentally ill offenders are properly managed so as to avoid recidivism. After establishing that there are viable links between violence and mentally ill individuals, it becomes necessary for the criminal justice system to step up; thus ensuring that mentally ill persons are not a threat to the public (Engel & Silver, 2001). According to Croker (2010), the strategies that were needed would be most effective if they targeted criminal behavior instead of primarily targeting mental illness alone. These strategies included those that targeted antisocial behavior and attitude, substance abuse and the offender’s environment. These strategies are considered cognitive-behavioral types of interventions.

It would be equally important to address other factors that have been primarily associated with violent behavior in mentally ill people. It will entail ensuring that the offender’s immediate environment does not elicit violent behavior. This would also mean that the criminal justice system will ensure proper social support for the mentally disturbed people. Reduction of environmental stressors such as victimization, poverty and disorganized neighborhoods will also aid in ensuring that mentally ill people are not in a risk of violent offending. The risk factors are exacerbated when people with mental problems live in socially friendly neighborhoods (Anderson, 1997).

Several evaluations of the impact of providing proper social support and housing to mentally disturbed persons who have encountered the criminal justice system for ten years and above showed that the rate of arrests declined by 75%. This study reveals that necessarily treating mental health problems and ignoring other factors do not prevent people with mental health problems from committing a crime. This strategy is effective since it results in a reduction of costs incurred in the criminal justice system during conviction and the process of sentencing a mentally disturbed convict (Becker, Constantine, Andel & Boaz, 2011). Therefore, interventions aimed primarily at addressing criminality or mental illnesses are not an effective means of reducing the rate of incarceration of people with mental health problems.

The success of interventions in crime associated with mentally ill criminals is also determined by the degree of cooperation from the different service providers. Integrative teams would be more responsible if the members avoided conflict on who was right to make decisions during implementation of the strategies. However, the insistence on other factors apart from mental illness does not mean that it should be ignored (Brink, Doherty & Boer, 2001). On the contrary, early treatment of mental related health problems will reduce the population of mentally ill people whose illness is predictive of violence. Timely treatment and identification of psychosis is extremely important. People with extreme psychotic disorders should be admitted in psychiatric hospitals. Even when they have been incarcerated, such prisoners are supposed to be transferred to psychiatric hospitals.

From the discussion, it beats logic to appreciate that the link between violence and medical illness is real, evident and, therefore, present. Even if not directly related, it is right to argue that mentally ill people are at a high risk of violent offending. People with mental problems constitute a significant number of convicted criminals in many prisons. As such, it is crucial to put in place effective strategies that ensure that these numbers are reduced. It is also evident that people with serious mental illnesses are associated with extremely violent crimes. Therefore, it would do much justice by ensuring that these individulas are locked up in psychiatric hospitals where they can be adequately monitored. Due to the fact that other factors contribute to predictive violent behavior in mentally ill people; therefore, it calls for thorough addresing of these factors, so as to avert future problems. Thus, “people with people with mental health problems are at increased risk of violent offending”.