Free Term Paper on Alternative Treatments for Criminals

Alternative Treatments for CriminalsThe general public, not to mention law enforcement and policy makers, seems to believe that, aside from the death penalty, incarceration is the most severe form of punishment the criminal justice system can impose. In fact, the notion of a continuum of criminal justice sanctions typically places probation on the low end and imprisonment on the high end, with a variety of alternative sanctions falling somewhere in between (Petersen and Palumbo 1997). Unfortunately, the development of a continuum of alternative responses in crime control and the ranking of these alternatives have been developed by legislators and policy makers who had no reliable means of rating the severity of the sanctions imposed, had little or no access to experiential data, and depended primarily on individuals with no firsthand knowledge of the actual impact of the alternatives (Morris and Tonry 1990). As such, the common belief that penal–correctional sanctions must be bound by probation at the one end and imprisonment at the other may not only be misleading in many contexts but also represent the fundamental controversy underlying the development of alternative responses to crime—namely, that there is anything but a consensus on what constitutes an alternative and on what the alternative is alternative to.

In other words, politicians have their notions of severity and leniency, as do criminals, psychologists, penologists, criminologists, and risk-management specialists. There is no agreement between these persons or more generally between those engaged in law enforcement, prosecution, adjudication, and punishment/corrections about which particular alternatives should be used in response to a myriad of offenses. At the same time, over the years, there have been tangible changes in ideologies, theories, and practices associated with society’s different responses to crime. As a result, alternatives — or perhaps more accurately, new emphases, some innovative and others not — emerge and develop and become mainstream; then other alternatives to those emerge and develop.


I. Background

II. Legal Developments

III. Controversial Aspects within the Alternatives

A. Pretrial Diversion

B. Intensive Supervision Probation

C. Substance Abuse Treatment/Intensive Parole Drug Program (IPDP)

D. Electronic Monitoring and House Arrest

E. Boot Camp and Shock Incarceration

F. Day Reporting Centers (DRCs)

G. Residential Community Correctional Facilities (Halfway Houses)

H. Fines

I. Forfeiture

J. Community Service and Restitution

IV. Conclusion


Traditionally, criminal sanctions had four goals: (1) Retribution/punishment, which also connotes the dispensing or receiving of reward or punishment according to what the individual deserves. It implies the payment of a debt to society and thus the expiration of the offense and is codified in the biblical injunction “an eye for an eye.” (2) Rehabilitation, which was the major reason for sentencing in the mid-20th century. It is a utilitarian philosophy, defined as the process of restoring an individual (a convict) to a useful and constructive place in society through some form of vocational, correctional, or therapeutic retraining or through relief, financial aid, or other reconstruction measure. (3) Incapacitation, which refers to the deprivation of legal/constitutional freedom and the ability to perform certain civil acts. Its main purpose is to remove offenders from society. (4) Deterrence, with specific and general deterrence based on a utilitarian philosophy that focuses on an understanding of human behavior. It works best when individuals believe they will get caught and punished and when their punishment is severe enough to represent a threat. The concept of restoration, meaning “reparation,” or restoring an individual or a community to a state that existed before the crime was committed, was added later on as a fifth goal. The concept of alternatives was developed in an attempt to modify and/or expand the way in which society sanctions criminal acts. Over time, the goals of these sanctions have evolved, which has led to a necessary change in the sanctions themselves.

For example, correctional leaders began to embrace the idea of combining a psychology about personality and human development to probation in the 1940s. They began to emphasize a medical model for probation, and rehabilitation (as opposed to punishment) became the overriding goal. This medical model was popular until the 1960s, when it was replaced by the reintegration model. The main thrust of the reintegration model was to reduce the rate of recidivism by making the prisoner’s return to the community easier. The reintegration model assumed that crime was a direct result of poverty, racism, unemployment, unequal opportunities, and other social factors.

The concept of probation underwent yet another change in the late 1970s and remains that way today. The goals of rehabilitation and reintegration have been replaced by what is referred to as risk management (Petersilia, Turner, Kahan, and Peterson 1985). The risk-management approach attempts to minimize the probability that any given offender will commit new offenses by applying different degrees of control over the probationer’s activity based on the probationer’s assessed degree of risk. In essence, the risk-management approach is a combination of the just desserts model (i.e., the severity of the punishment should equal the seriousness of the crime) of criminal sanction and the idea that the community must be safe.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, legislation was also passed to establish financial and programmatic incentives for community corrections. (In 1965, California passed the Probation Subsidy Act. In 1973, Minnesota passed the first comprehensive Community Corrections Act. In 1976, Colorado passed legislation patterned after Minnesota’s. In 1978, Oregon passed similar legislation.) The incentives were expected to embrace a wide range of alternatives to incarceration from which judges and other officials could choose. The main goal was to alleviate prison overcrowding, support prisoner reintegration, and reduce rates of recidivism. In 1971, the incarceration rate was 96 per 100,000. By 2003, the rate was 477 per 10,000 (Clear, Cole, and Reisig 2006).

Today, despite research findings demonstrating that offenders perceive the pains of punishment in only one way, policy makers generally categorize alternatives into two categories: (1) low-control alternatives for the less severe crimes or low-risk offenders (e.g., fines or restitution, community service, drug/alcohol treatment, probation, intensive supervision probation, and home confinement) and (2) high-control alternatives for the more serious crimes or high-risk offenders (e.g., boot camp, shock incarceration, and community supervision). Simple probation lies at one end of the continuum (less severe punishment or low-control alternatives) and traditional incarceration at the other end (most severe punishment).

High-control alternatives, although not as severe as incarceration, are seen as the last option before incarceration. On the other hand, studies show that offenders ranked seven alternative sanctions more severely than prison: (1) boot camp, (2) jail, (3) day reporting, (4) intermittent incarceration, (5) halfway house, (6) intensive supervision probation, and (7) electronic monitoring. They viewed prison as more punitive only compared with community service and regular probation (Wood and Grasmick 1999). Regardless of rank in the punishment continuum, the goal of these alternatives is to reintegrate offenders into the community. These alternatives move away from the medical model and, in fact, suggest that the use of prisons should eventually be avoided altogether. In this approach, probation would be the sentence of choice for nonviolent offenders so as to allow them to participate in vocational and educational programs and ultimately make their adjustment to the community easier.

Legal Developments

Approximately two-thirds of adults under the supervision of the criminal justice system live in the general community while on either parole or probation. As discussed throughout this entry, probation is a type of community sentence in which the individual is remanded to some form of community supervision either as punishment for a crime or as a part of a sentence (usually after spending a portion of the sentence in prison). Although there is no right to parole and these individuals are still under the legal control of the correctional system, they, just like those who are incarcerated, still have rights. Therefore, while they are in the community, probationers and parolees enjoy a conditional liberty that is dependent on and regulated by very specific restrictions. These restrictions, by their very nature, may violate the constitutional rights of the probationer/ parolee. For example, these individuals are denied the right of free association with prior crime partners or victims. However, because of cases such as Griffin v. Wisconsin (1987), parolees are now able to give public speeches and receive publications.

Another legal question arises with respect to probationers and parolees who violate the terms of their probation or parole. The rule of thumb in such cases is that the offender may be sent to prison. Additionally, if the offender commits another crime, his or her probation or parole will likely be revoked. For minor violations (e.g., missing a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous), the probation/parole officer may decide to how severe the penalty should be. Having said that, the Supreme Court has had to address the issue of due process when revocation is an option.

In the case of Mempa v. Rhay (1967), the U.S. Supreme Court determined that a probationer has the right to be represented by counsel in a revocation or sentencing hearing before a deferred prison sentence can be imposed. Additionally, in Morrissey v. Brewer (1972), the Court ruled that parolees faced with the possibility of the revocation of parole must be afforded prompt due process before an impartial hearing officer.

Controversial Aspects within the Alternatives

In evaluating the benefits of alternatives, some researchers have noted that “An expanded range of sentencing options gives judges greater latitude to exercise discretion in selecting punishments that more closely fit the circumstances of the crime and the offender” (DiMascio n.d.). They have argued that this type of scheme, if administered effectively would free up prison cells for violent offenders, whereas less restrictive alternatives would be used to punish nonviolent offenders. Prison overcrowding, the cost of prisons, and the increasing recidivism rates have contributed to the creation of alternatives within the criminal justice system. (Recidivism is the recurrence of a criminal behavior by the offender. Rates of recidivism can be assessed in three ways: by rearrest, reconviction, and reincarceration.) Prisons now account for approximately 80 percent of every correctional dollar spent, and U.S. prisons cost $2.45 billion in 1996. Increasing rates of recidivism seem to be directly related to increasing rates of rearrest, reconviction, and reincarceration, which, in turn, result in the increasing need for prison space. Alternatives to the traditional types of punishment (more specifically imprisonment) within the criminal justice system were the result of a need to change this trend. However, there is a growing body of research suggesting that many offenders actually have a negative perception of alternative sanctions (May, Wood, Mooney, and Minor 2005). In fact, some studies suggest that a significant number of offenders actually believe that serving time in prison is easier than many alternatives; depending on the alternative, up to one-third of offenders refused to participate even if it meant a shorter prison stay (May, Wood, Mooney, and Minor 2005). Some of the reasons given for choosing imprisonment over alternatives include (1) concerns about abuse of power and antagonism by the personnel who run the program and (2) the likelihood that the program would fail, resulting in revocation to prison after time and effort had been invested in the program.

Pretrial Diversion

Pretrial diversion is the first and perhaps most important alternative within the criminal justice system. It allows the defendant to agree to conditions set forth by the prosecutor (e.g., counseling or drug rehabilitation) in exchange for the withdrawal of charges. This concept began because of a belief that the formal processing of people through the criminal justice system was not always the best course of action (Geerken and Hayes 1993). There are three main reasons given for the use of pretrial diversion: (1) many of the crimes committed were caused by offenders with special circumstances, such as vagrancy, alcoholism, emotional distress, and so forth, which cannot be managed effectively within the criminal justice system; (2) formal criminal justice labeling often carries a stigma that actually hurts or cripples attempts at rehabilitation and in the long run can promote an unnecessarily harsh penalty for a relatively minor offense; and (3) the cost of diversion is cheaper than the cost of criminal justice processing.

The concept of diversion is very controversial because some argue that it allows offenders to get off easy. Yet there are also those who argue that the rationale for diversion is sound because incarceration, in effect, does nothing to change the offender’s disadvantaged status and the stigma of conviction will ultimately decrease the offender’s chances of becoming a productive citizen. Nonetheless, support for diversion seems to wax and wane depending on whether society supports the rehabilitation or incarceration of offenders.

Despite mixed success, critics view pretrial diversion programs negatively as they are applied in expanding the state’s authority or widening the net of social control.

In other words, the reach of this alternative correctional program targets or sanctions individuals charged with less serious offenses more seriously than originally intended.

Intensive Supervision Probation

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) 1997 Special Report (Bonczar and Glaze 1999), approximately 10 percent of all probationers and parolees who participate in alternative sanction programs are under intensive supervision probation. This approach was designed in the 1980s in response to the issue of prison overcrowding. Specifically geared research was conducted to identify a solution, and it was determined that there were a small number of inmates who could, under the right circumstances, be released into the community with minimal risk to the public (Petersilia and Turner 1990). Two hundred inmates were initially selected, but over time the number has risen to well over a thousand participants. Over a four-month period, the inmate must file an application, which must be approved by a three-person screening panel. If approved, a resentence hearing must be held before three judges. If the judges approve the application, the inmate will begin a 90-day trial period of intensive supervision probation. Despite some shortcomings, this program has been extremely helpful in relieving prison overcrowding.

Yet 10 years after its inception, research showed that nearly one-third of nonviolent offenders who were given the option to participate in intensive supervision probation chose prison instead (Petersilia 1990). They felt that the combination of having to work every day, having to submit to random drug tests, and having their privacy invaded was more punitive that serving a prison term. A significant number also indicated that intensive supervision probation had so many conditions attached to it that there was a high probability of violating a condition and being revoked back to prison. These offenders viewed intensive supervision probation as more punitive than imprisonment and equated one year in prison to five years of intensive supervision probation.

Substance Abuse Treatment/Intensive Parole Drug Program (IPDP)

As the title indicates, the Intensive Parole Drug Program (IPDP) is an intensive supervision program for parolees with a history of substance abuse (drugs and alcohol). This program was implemented in certain states as a part of the Department of Corrections’ “Stop the Revolving Door” initiative, which has an antirecidivism focus. The program focuses on relapse prevention, intervention strategies, and counseling referrals. Sanctions may include community-based treatment, residential placement, or return to custody with institutional program treatment. Any parolee identified as having a substance abuse problem can be referred (Clear, Cole, and Reisig 2006). Candidates come from a range of programs—from therapeutic community programs to mutual agreement programs or from halfway houses. IPDP is a six-month-minimum program with participants having the option to stay an additional three months. The issue with these types of programs is that although some offenders welcome the opportunity for treatment, they feel that the intrusive nature of the program itself outweighs any possible benefit. As is the case with other programs, offenders who are offered the opportunity to participate frequently decline and choose to serve time instead.

Electronic Monitoring and House Arrest

Electronic monitoring and house arrest are typically used together in conjunction with intensive supervision. House arrest restricts the offender to home except when at school, work, or court-assigned treatment, and electronic monitoring becomes the technological means of securing compliance. Electronic monitoring has been described as the most important penal invention of the 1980s (“The 2002–2003 Electronic Monitoring Survey” 2002). It tries to incorporate some of the goals of criminal justice sanctions yet fits into a category all its own. Electronic monitoring is a “supervision tool that provides information about the offender’s presence at, or absence from, his or her residence or other location” (State of Michigan 2006). Although the system does not track offenders’ whereabouts like a homing device, it is able to determine if offenders are at home when they should be.

Harvard psychologist Robert Schwitzgebel (Gomme 1995, 489–516) developed the first electronic monitoring device in the mid-1960s. He felt that his invention could provide a humane and inexpensive alternative to custody for many people involved in the justice process. The goal of an electronic monitoring system is to provide community supervision staff with an additional tool to intensely supervise offenders who are not incarcerated. This form of supervision does not support any form of treatment or assistance, but it is more cost-efficient than incarceration, which provides a direct contrast and alternative to incapacitation or imprisonment. Critics of electronic monitoring argue that the concept is self-serving for the manufacturers of the house-arrest equipment. The also argue that there are many rehabilitative-type services and products available but point out that these services are labor-intensive and expensive and would no doubt eat into the corporation’s profits.

Boot Camp and Shock Incarceration

Boot camps combine basic elements of both rehabilitation and retribution. They provide rigorous physical activity that many believe to be more beneficial than punitive alternatives. “Boot camps are highly popular residential alternatives (intermediate sanctions) typically used for young offenders which provide for very structured and military-like activities such as strict discipline, physical training and labor, drill, and a regimented schedule of daily activities” (Rush 2004). A sentence of boot camp, also known as shock incarceration, is usually for a relatively short time, approximately three to six months.

The first boot camp programs were implemented in Georgia and Oklahoma in 1983 to help relieve prison and jail crowding. They were first developed in the adult criminal justice system and then expanded to the juvenile justice system (MacKenzie, Wilson, and Kider 2001). Boot camps were created for several reasons. As mentioned previously, one of the main goals of alternatives is to alleviate the overcrowding of prisons. That is, “certain offenders who would normally be sentenced to a prison term (e.g., two to four years) are diverted to a shorter, yet equally punitive and effective, boot camp sentence (e.g., 90 to 180 days)” (Begin 1996).

Deterrence (both specific and general) is inherent in the concept of shock incarceration. The hope is that the shock of incarceration will serve both as a deterrent specific to the criminal and the crime as well as a general deterrent to would-be criminals in the immediate community. Boot camp is considered one of the most demanding alternatives, and the findings on its effectiveness as a deterrent to offenders committing further crimes is mixed at best. Moreover, more often than not, offenders who are offered the opportunity to serve a sentence in boot camp instead of in prison opt to serve prison time because boot camp is seen as being more intrusive than prison.

Day Reporting Centers (DRCs)

Day reporting centers (DRCs) are community-based facilities that provide a strict regimen of supervision and programming for ex-offenders. The 1980s began the era of the use of DRCs in the United States, but this concept actually originated in England as a way of reducing the prison population. The goal of DRCs is to combine high levels of control over offenders so as to meet public safety needs while providing intensive services to address the rehabilitative needs of the offender. Day reporting is an alternative that completely eliminates the cost of jail for these offenders because they do not require housing or confinement.

The rationale behind the implementation of this type of alternative is that sometimes the crime committed does not justify a jail sentence. In fact, it has been argued that some offenders are by nature more responsive to less severe punishment and that they may actually be harmed, more than their crime may merit, by serving a jail term. The use of DRCs would allow offenders to report to a location in a manner similar to reporting to a probation officer. Offenders in this program would be required to account for their activities during the day, including job-searching activities for those participants who are unemployed. Offenders would also be subjected to daily drug and alcohol testing, as would regular offenders. Failure of either of these mandatory tests would result in disqualification from the program.

Day reporting incorporates three of the sanctions that were discussed earlier, and it is in keeping with these that the goals of this type of alternative are formed. As such, the objectives of DRCs are threefold: (1) punishment through restricting clients’ activity and requiring community service; (2) incapacitation through intensive supervision, firm enforcement of attendance agreements, and strict adherence to program structure; and (3) rehabilitation through services aimed at “enabling the unable by developing social and survival skills, remedying deficiencies in education, and increasing employability” (Begin 1996).

Daily programming includes but is not limited to educational /vocational training, drug/alcohol treatment, anger management, and conflict resolution. Many of the alternatives are implemented for the purpose of combating the overcrowding and enormous cost of imprisonment. In order to reduce the cost of prisons, the criminal justice system “requires that sanctions be tailored as carefully as possible to ensure that they provide only the supervision or services necessary to achieve their intended goal(s)” (Begin 1996). Alternatives, therefore, present more effective methods of reducing society’s total spending on the correctional system in general and the prison population specifically.

The work crew is another option that allows qualifying offenders to work off a portion of their sentence and/or their fine by working on public works projects selected and supervised by participating jurisdictions (Clear 1994). In the end, the amount of work that the offender does for the time period is assessed and deducted from the total sum of time he or she would have spent incarcerated. It is important to note that the difference between the work crew just discussed and work release is that the latter is an option some jurisdictions use to allow individuals to continue to work at their existing jobs according to their established schedule, but they must reside at the jail overnight (Gill 1967). This alternative reduces the cost to correctional institutions for daily services; however, those work release programs that do not have work release centers still require jails to cover the cost of night services.

Residential Community Correctional Facilities (Halfway Houses)

Halfway houses are residential facilities designed to (1) house adult offenders (with at least 70 percent of its residents placed by federal, state, or local authorities), (2) operate independently of the other corrections institution, and (3) permit clients to leave the premises during the day for work, education, or community programs. Additionally, halfway houses are critical in rehabilitating ex-offenders. In addition to providing high levels of surveillance and treatment, the 24-hour residency makes these facilities the community sanction that is closest to the total institutional setting of a prison or jail (halfway between prison and freedom) because, despite the setting, the movements, behavior, and mood of the residents can be continuously monitored.

Halfway houses also provide a safe haven for offenders who have been confined for long periods of time, allowing a smooth transition back into the community. Some offenders who live in halfway houses can actually work and pay rent. They are allowed to leave only to report to jobs, and they must return promptly at the end of the workday. In essence, halfway-house residents have more freedom and responsibility than people in prison but less freedom than ordinary citizens.

A halfway house is a “rehabilitation center where people who have left an institution, such as a hospital or prison, are helped to readjust to the outside world” (Caputo 2004, 72).

Recidivism was a major concern for the criminal justice system, and this form of alternative was supported as a way to combat it. Another purpose of halfway houses is to monitor those offenders just leaving prison to make sure that they are ready to function in society again. It was implemented to also give offenders the opportunity to gradually recondition themselves to the world. The offender is leaving a structured environment in prison, and the halfway house provides a transitioning period for the offender to enter a free public. Thus, halfway-house residents have greater freedom and responsibility than people in prison but less freedom than ordinary citizens (Nelson, Deess, and Allen 1999). Owing to the existence of halfway houses in the community, some safety concerns exist. Such concerns are limited when compared with situations where offenders were released from prison directly into society without any formal supervision.

Another benefit of halfway houses is that an offender must perform community service in the form of manual labor for the government or private, nonprofit organizations without receiving any payment. The courts, on a discretionary basis, determine the number of community service hours an offender must serve.


Fines are typically used in conjunction with other sanctions, such as probation and incarceration (a typical sentence would be two years’ probation and a $500 fi ne). The biggest complaint about fines as a sanction is the difficulty of collection. A significant number of offenders are poor and simply cannot afford to pay them. On the other hand, judges also complain that well-to-do offenders will be in a better position to meet the financial penalty and less likely to learn the lesson the penalty was intended to teach.

As a result, several states—including Arizona, Connecticut, Iowa, New York, and Washington—have tested an alternate concept referred to as a day fine, developed in Sweden and Germany, which imposes a fine based on a fixed percentage of the offender’s income. The day fine concept ensures that the financial penalty imposed on the offender will have the same impact regardless of income.


Forfeiture is the act of seizing personal property (e.g., boats, automobiles, or equipment used to manufacture illegal drugs), real property (e.g., houses), or other assets (e.g., bank accounts) derived from or used in the commission of illegal acts. Forfeiture can take both civil and criminal forms. Under civil law, the property can be seized without an actual finding of guilt. Under criminal law, however, forfeiture is imposed only as part of the sentence for a guilty verdict.

The practice of forfeiture was not actually used after the American Revolution but became more popular with the 1970 passage of the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and the Continuing Criminal Enterprise (CCE) Act. As its popularity grew in usage, congressional amendments were made to streamline implementation in 1984 and 1986 (Spaulding 1989).

Community Service and Restitution

The concepts of community service and restitution are relatively new alternatives. “Community service is a compulsory, free, or donated labor performed by an offender as punishment for a crime” (Inciardi, Martin, and Butzin 2004; Parent and Barnett 2002). “Community service can be arranged for individuals on a case by case basis or organized by correctional agencies as programs” (Inciardi, Martin, and Butzin 2004; Parent and Barnett 2002). Community service provides a chance for offenders to give back to the community for the wrong that they did to society.

The first documented community service program in the United States was implemented in Alameda County, California, in 1966 (Inciardi, Martin, and Butzin 2004; Parent and Barnett 2002). Community service sentencing first began when it was found that many indigent women were forced to go to jail because they could not afford traffic and parking fines. “To avoid the financial costs of incarceration and the individual cost to the offenders [who were often women with families], physical work in the community without compensation was assigned instead” (Inciardi, Martin, and Butzin 2004; Parent and Barnett 2002). This alternative had such outstanding results that it spread nationwide into the 1970s. It was advocated by the idea of “symbolic restitution,” whereby offenders, through good deeds in the form of free labors benefiting the community, symbolically repaid society for the harm they had caused (Inciardi, Martin, and Butzin 2004; Parent and Barnett 2002).

Restitution is often viewed as financial compensation, but it can also take the form of community service hours at a community project. Both community service and restitution operate under the assumption that the offender’s personal or financial contribution to the victim or the community will compensate for any loss caused by the offender’s illegal behavior.

An offender is usually given community service in conjunction with restitution. “Restitution is the payment by the offender of the costs of the victim’s losses or injuries and/ or damages to the victim” (Department of Health and Human Services 2005, 4). Restitution provides either direct compensation to the victim by the offender, usually with money although sometimes with services (victim restitution), and unpaid compensation given not to the victim but to the larger community (community service). Restitution, as an alternative, is similar to restoration in that both concepts seek to place the victim and/ or the community back into the position they were in (whether financial or emotional) before the crime was committed.

Victim restitution programs were adopted in the United States in 1972 with the Minnesota restitution program. It “gave prisoners convicted of property offenses the opportunity to shorten their jail stay, or avoid it altogether, if they went to work and turned over part of their pay as restitution to their victims” (Department of Health and Human Services 2005, 4).


According to policy makers, the concept of alternatives to criminal justice is different from the traditional criminal justice sanctions in four significant ways: (1) It is restorative as opposed to retributive, (2) it uses problem-solving rather than adversarial strategies, (3) the community jurisdiction takes on a more important role than the legal jurisdiction, and (4) the ultimate goal is not to punish the offender but to improve the community through collaborative problem solving. Critics and offenders argue, on the other hand, that the alternatives and community corrections strategies are becoming increasingly punitive despite the emphasis on rehabilitation.

The bottom line is that the offenders are the ones who must evaluate the severity and impact of alternative sanctions. If offenders perceive the alternatives as being too severe, they will choose prison, and the entire concept will serve no purpose. Even offenders receiving identical punishments will react differently to perceived degrees of intrusiveness; some may perceive the punishment as more severe than others, depending on age, race, sex, and prior punishment history (Spelman 1995). According to this research, African American offenders, men, older offenders, unmarried offenders, offenders without children, drug offenders, and repeat offenders rated prison as less punitive than alternatives. Hence, to ignore these research findings and to disregard the viewpoints of those directly involved—offenders, victims, and community members—is to make policies on the basis of preconceived ideas, biases, and stereotypes.


Dianne Williams and Jessica Williams



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