Competing Theories of Corrections
American Intercontinental University
March 11, 2012
Competing Theories of Corrections
Correctional theories are series of interrelated propositions or assertions that attempt to describe, explain, predict, and define criminal behavior. There are many different theories that have been created over the years to help explain the relationships between criminal behavior and punishment. The theories of corrections have no doubt changed and shifted over the years, the more people began to understand the rationale behind criminal behavior. Several centuries ago, criminal behavior was once thought to sin ...view middle of the document...
For a long time, “retribution was solely a matter of inflicting suffering in return for wickedness” (Bradley, 2003, pg.6). Retribution is a call for punishment fueled by inner anger and a perceived need for vengeance. The theory of retribution follows the “just desserts” model of criminal sentencing, that believes when someone has been convicted and punished for a crime, they have received their “just desserts”. It is akin to a form of revenge taken by society as a whole against the perpetrator. “Retribution sees punishment as deserved, justified, and even required by the offender’s behavior” (Schmalleger, 2012). Punishment in the form of retribution helps to dissuade the victim or the victim’s family from pursuing their own brand of justice. The fact that punishment is given to the perpetrator, provides the victim with some sense of closure.
Another competing theory of corrections is incapacitation. Incapacitation is the use of imprisonment or other means to reduce the likelihood that an offender will commit future offenses. This theory is often thought of as the “lock ‘em up” approach to criminal activity. Incapacitation is the obvious purpose of imprisonment, because “offenders are removed from further offending in the community, at least for the duration of their prison sentence” (Wood, Williams, and James, 2010, pg.1). Unlike the theory of retribution, incapacitation only requires that there be restraint, not punishment.
The deterrence theory of corrections uses the example or threat of punishment to help convince people that criminal activity is not worth the risk of being caught and punished. The two types of deterrence used are specific and general deterrence. Specific deterrence seeks to prevent a particular offender from engaging in repeat criminality. While general deterrence, seeks to prevent others from committing crimes similar to the one for which a particular offender is being sentenced by making an example of the person sentenced. Deterrence is used as a means to scare individuals from wanting to commit crimes. Compliance with the law is reinforced through this fear of punishment. However, it is possible to investigate the amount of punishment required to deter crime (Schmalleger, 2012).
The rehabilitation theory of corrections is one that seeks to reform criminal offenders. The term rehabilitation literally means to return a person to their previous condition. Generally, rehabilitation works through educational and psychological treatment to help reduce the likelihood of future criminality However in most cases, restoring an offender to their previous state will only result in a more youthful type of criminality (Schmalleger, 2012). Although, there are effective treatment programs out there that do work to help rehabilitate offenders. Often drug offenders are the ones given the option of going into a rehabilitative program, in order to help them break the hold that drugs have on them.