Essay Example: The Importance of Alternatives to Incarceration

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Boston College
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The court system in any civilization provides a mechanism through which a victim of an offense can access justice. In any case presented to the jury, the onus is often on them to assess the veracity of evidence and make final judgments within the dictates of the criminal justice procedures (Latimer, Dowden, & Muise, 2001). Nonetheless, with increasing operational costs and overpopulation of the prisons, it is imperative that alternative dispute resolutions mechanisms are necessary. Though the actual incarceration throughout a particular period serves to deter potential offenders as well as rehabilitating them, it is important to assess the socio-economic and political implications of such process.

It is arguable that detention is a critical response to the crime but in some cases, it is expensive and shown underperformance in rehabilitating some criminals (Martin, National Institute of Corrections (U.S.), & United States, 2005). Alternative legal mechanisms such as community-based hearing and resolution of some minor disputes allow the community to actively engage in monitoring the operations of the criminal (Latimer, Dowden, & Muise, 2001). It beats logic that it is infective for a correctional system to meet the maintenance cost of criminals in jails over an extended period but they turn out to be worse off on their release into the community.

The role of any court system is to dispense justice thus the ultimate aim of any jury is to ensure that justice is served to both the offender and victim. The traditional judicial system often seeks to punish the criminal proximate to their crimes (The United States, 2011). However, in the end, the criminals may be psychologically attuned to see themselves as societal rejects hence increased cases of recidivism (Martin, National Institute of Corrections (U.S.), & United States, 2005). Alternatives to court ruling such as restorative justice and community justice provide a broad based approach in which the offenders, community, and victim are involved in the restoration process. Restorative initiatives make the criminal accountable not only to the victim but also to the entire community that is involved in retribution.

Confinement of offenders in the prisons does not necessarily result in behavior change. Therefore, alternative mechanisms such as subjecting the criminals to community service programs hold them responsible to the entire community (The United States, 2011). As the offender does the community services, he or she develops a broader understanding of the negative implication of crime and publicly bears the shame of involvement in antisocial activities. In doing the community services, the criminals also link their participation in such programs to the harm they have caused the community (Martin, National Institute of Corrections (U.S.), & United States, 2005). Eventually, the community service appreciably reduces the possibility of recidivism. Another alternative to incarceration which is home detention is an effective way of controlling the involvement of offenders in specific offenses. Though the approach does not mitigate against crimes committed at home, it assumes that much threat to the public result when a crime is committed outdoor.

Different researchers have shown that alternatives to traditional court system are effective in fostering long term behavior change among criminals. For instance, a law passed in California in 2000 provides that judges should provide substance abuse or mental health treatment to nonviolent criminals rather than subjecting them to a jail term. This strategy saves the state of California a lot of money annually.



Latimer, J., Dowden, C., & Muise, D. (2001). The effectiveness of restorative justice practices: A meta-analysis. Department of Justice Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.

Martin, M., National Institute of Corrections (U.S.), & United States. (2005). Project guide: Alternatives to the incarceration of offenders. Demarest, N.J: Justice Planners International.

The United States. (2011). Alternatives to incarceration: A smart approach to breaking the cycle of drug use and crime. Washington, D.C.: Office of National Drug Control Policy, Executive Office of the President.


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