Why Probation and Parole is a Better Alternative than Incarceration
Probation and parole refer to the privileges which the judicial system allows criminals so as to avoid prison or may also result in the criminal being released from prison after serving a portion of their sentence. The aim is to rehabilitate offenders. Through this channel, they are guided back into the society and minimize the likelihood of committing new offenses. Incarceration on the other hand is the act of imprisoning a criminal where they are forcefully confined by the authority (Katel, 2011). Criminals under incarceration are denied their freedom as a form of punishment. Incarcerated criminals are fully dependant on government funding while the ones on probation are dependent on themselves or their community. This paper will seek to explain why probation and parole is better that incarceration. The paper will seek to show that incarceration costs the economy and the society more.
Probation may be granted to a criminal if the seriousness of the crime does not warrant incarceration as a proper sentence. The probationer is permitted to live in the community, but under certain rules and under surveillance by an appointed probation officer. General conditions include, attending rehabilitation programs, maintaining employment or even submitting to drug and alcohol tests (Coal et. al, 2010). Parole is almost similar to probation but differs in that, it is granted to an offender after s/he has served a fraction of their prison sentence
When a criminal is sentenced to incarceration, certain cost has to be incurred by the facility for their upkeep. They must be provided with food, clothes, and health care, educational facilities like libraries, recreational facilities, and security on a regular basis. All these needs require funding (Jefferson, 2007). However, if a criminal is under probation or parole, all this costs tend to be personally catered for or by the people around the probationer. It is a cost not incurred by the government. It is therefore necessary to study the economics of the prison industry and compare it to the parole and probation economics but incarceration has been seen to cost more (Coal, 2010).
It is now becoming a matter of concern to the government as to how the prison system should expand since their effectiveness is greatly linked to how many inmates it is able to accommodate. In some cases various incarceration managements have turned towards private businesses so as to survive. These businesses thrive by exploiting prison labor. Over time, it has become easy to blurs the factors that differentiate free labor from coerced labor. This can well be described as an act of desperation. According to Coal (2010), it is an illegal means of obtaining funds and hence they tend to do this discreetly. Scholars studying this call it the “prison industrial complex”. According to them, this trend of hiring out prisoners is a form of slavery or ‘slave trade’. It is something that goes against the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution concerning freed slaves who are subjected to forced labor. Since prisoners are considered to be cheap and efficient laborers to employers and can be subjected to a wide array of jobs, under circumstances most free workers would not accept (minimum wages or lack of insurance). This also greatly jeopardizes the chances of free laborers getting jobs as their labor is not competitive in terms of prices and benefits demanded. It leads to unemployment reducing the number of taxpayers who contribute to the funds that help run the incarceration facilities.
However, if the judicial system was to refer the criminals to probation and others parole, it is highly likely that the prison management would not consider offering cheap labor to private businesses as the first option (Bala, 2012). The number of inmates would decline, hence reducing their upkeep costs and would positively contribute to the “taxpayers kitty”. By monitoring them and ensuring they go to the relevant rehabilitation centers, criminals are highly likely to reform for the better and boost the economy. As for those incarcerated, no rehabilitation is given. Consequently, they are more likely to revert to their old ways if they lack employment once they are out.
At a social level, there is a way in which the government incurs high costs of maintaining prisons though indirectly through mass incarceration. It has a powerful negative influence on communities especially poor ones. In many poor neighborhoods in America, one fifth of the adult men are in prison at any given time. Once out, it becomes difficult for them to be considered fit for employment. The society in general and especially their loved ones have no option but pick up the pieces. Women whose husbands have been imprisoned are left to single- handedly raise children which is a daunting task. Such children grow to be emotionally imbalanced and may have discipline issues at school especially if they are not assisted through counseling. On the other hand, teachers have to deal with these children who are trying to emulate their fathers in various aspects especially crime. This adversely affects their education. In such a community, the children growing up are highly likely to become criminals, and as a result may not contribute positively to the society; they may negatively drain it by feeding the prisons (Coal et. al, 2010). The government spends billions of dollars every year on prisons depriving the funds towards social welfare programs that promote rehabilitation.
As seen above, incarceration costs the economy and the society more than probation and parole. A huge amount of resources are utilized in the process of incarceration and no tangible economic gain is attained. In addition, incarcerated people are not productive or have reduced productivity. When such people are used to provide labor and meet some of the cost of incarceration, it leads to lack of employment opportunities for free people. Incarcerated people are also not able to fulfill their societal roles and may be a bad influence to growing children. Long incarceration renders them unemployable after they are freed which adversely affect themselves and their dependents. Many nations are working towards policies of large-scale decarceration, and are addressing crime with alternative strategies like fines, restorative justice processes, community service, probation and parole as it is cheaper than incarceration.
Bala, N., & Anand, S. (2012). Youth criminal justice law (3rd ed.). Toronto: Irwin Law.
Cole, G., & Smith, C. (2010). The American system of criminal justice (12th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Elrod, P., & Ryder, R. (2011). Juvenile justice: A social, historical, and legal perspective (3rd ed.). Sudbury, Mass.: Jones and Bartlett.
Jefferson, M. (2007). Criminal law (8th ed.). Harlow: Pearson Longman.
Katel, P. (2011). Downsizing prisons should nonviolent inmates be incarcerated? Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.