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A federal judge in Alabama in the early 1970s discovered that programs for the mentally challenged did not meet constitutional standards (Premchand, 1990). He duly imposed quantitative standards for medical, nutritional, educational, therapeutic and reactional services, standards which included a change in staffing patterns and virtually overnight, the budget in Alabama increased by hundreds of millions of dollars (Premchand, 1990). Correctional services is one of the components of the criminal justice system which plays a critical role in the society. It has undergone many changes in the past and the present, for example, the Alabama changes which had ripple effects that reached other states. This paper will examine the past, present, and future trends of the American correctional facilities as well as the budgetary and managerial impact that future trends will likely have not only at the correctional facilities but also on the other components of the criminal justice system.
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Past, Present, And Future Trends of The Correctional Facilities
Privatizing Correctional Institutions
The United States imprisons a larger share of its population than any other nation. Of every 100,000 citizens residing in the United States, 426 are incarcerated with an annual cost of sixteen billion dollars which is exorbitant (Bowman et al,. 1994). The rate of imprisonment per 1000 arrests were 113 from 1960 up to 1975, however, the number of prisoners increased by 25.5% by the year 1989 (Bowman et al,. 1994). The rapid increase in the number of prisoners has led to a serious overcrowding problem and some state prisons have been operating at over a hundred percent of design capacity yet prisons are supposed to operate at 95% to allow for special housing for protective custody and other emergency needs (Bowman et al,. 1994). As a result, there has been an increase in the privatization of correctional facilities during the last thirty years. This recent dramatic growth in the number of private prisons is a trend that is likely to remain in the years to come. Privatization, in this case, refers to the provision of custodial and managerial services by the private sector but the state continues to fund the costs of incarceration of felons. The placement of juvenile offenders is very high in these private correctional facilities as in 1991, 30% of all juvenile offenders under correctional services were held in private facilities (Armstrong, 2001). A debate has sufficed regarding the viability of private correction facilities as a measure to curb the increase of the offender population but many believe that it is a good way of solving overcrowding and improving management in correctional facilities.
Correctional Health Care
Contagious diseases have been a major problem for correctional facilities and it can be categorized as a past, present and future trend. Preventing transmission of communicable diseases in correctional facilities is such a critical topic which requires great vigilance as inmates are more likely to harbor infectious diseases when compared to the general population. Recently, correctional facilities have put measures to prevent the transmission of hepatitis, TB, and STDs, and as a matter of fact, there have been promising advances in the treatment of hepatitis C. Further studies indicate high rates of dental disease in correctional facilities and the inmate population, in general, has reduced access to the use of dental care (Moore, 2003). The ongoing healthcare trend is the implementation of an adequate dental program in these facilities to restore normal functioning and prevent deterioration of inmates’ dental health. There is also timely care for acute emergencies such as toothaches, avulsed teeth, and abscesses (Moore, 2003).
Recruitment of Officers
In the past, criminals only served limited time of their prison sentence behind bars and as a result, violent crime increased leading to a public outcry for longer and tougher prison sentences. As a result, legislators responded to this call by enacting laws which guaranteed longer prison stays for violent offenders, however, they only got more sophisticated and violent as crowded prison grounds provided more opportunities for their criminal activities. It is true that prisons are a hotbed of criminal activity and training grounds for criminals as inmates constantly train their skills against the department of corrections and the community at large (Moore, 2003). As a growing trend concern, a big question arises as to how to manage this growing problem. Recruitment of more prison officers who are better trained and experienced proves to be the better option. There are new requirements being enforced when applying for prison jobs such as stating any disabilities or previous employment record. Correctional organizations further ask applicants to take three types of test to predict job performance, which includes written test, psychological exam and a physical exam to test physical capabilities. Such requirements are on the rise currently and this ensures that better officers are stationed in correctional facilities to curb criminal activities taking place inside prisons.
Budgetary and Managerial Impact
Funding impacts all levels of corrections although the cost varies greatly. Probation and parole are less expensive when compared to confinement and confinement costs range greatly in terms of juvenile or adult confinement. Thus, funding remains to be a huge challenge as there is no single source of correctional funding, rather it is drawn from the local state as well as the federal government (McElreath, Keena, Etter & Stuart, 2011). Corrections funding cannot be used on other public services and during the financial year 2006, states spent nearly $ 35.6 billion on corrections and budgeted $37.6 billion for the financial year 2007 (McElreath, Keena, Etter & Stuart, 2011). Judicial costs have become a significant public expense as state and nationwide court expenditures are in the range of $12 billion to $15billion dollars annually (Rabin, 2003). Although this growth in costs has been driven by inflation, many trials and appellate judicial decisions contribute to this figure. These increased costs have contributed to funding disputes, both at local and state levels as there is an argument as to who gets to use court generated fee and fine revenue (Rabin, 2003). Legislative decisions also made affect budgets which have a lot of repercussion on courtroom sentencing. For example, budgetary constraints ratified at the national level will change the programming at various local correctional centers and probation offices. It is, therefore, no secret that when one component of criminal justice is underfunded, then all components suffer and vice versa. Inadequate funding like in this case will lead to judges throwing out “minute” cases and this will lead to police officers failing to arrest criminals engaging in such activities entirely leading to an unprecedented increase in crime rate. On the other hand, adequate funding will guarantee stricter adherence to the rule of law and tight probation programs to rehabilitate wrongdoers.
Future managerial trends in correctional services mostly have to do with the privatization of correction facilities. Private prisons are better managed as compared to public ones which are overcrowded and understaffed. Consequently, privatizing reduces rates of recidivism. Cases of reoffending in private prisons is generally lower than that in the public ones. This is due to the quality of rehabilitation programs in private prisons and access to educational facilities. Better management leads to training programs of the inmates ensuring they gain appropriate skills which they can use to make a living once set free.
Having law and order is necessary for the development of any state or society and the criminal justice system is tasked with ensuring this. The judiciary(courts), law enforcement and the corrections all work hand in hand to achieve the same goal and ensuring the order is maintained. There are however certain past, present and future trends in the corrections which affect service delivery and/or operations. The issue of health in correctional facilities, for instance, is one such area of critical importance which has been in the limelight in the past and will continue to be a talking point even in the future. Due to seclusion in such areas and overcrowding, the outbreak of diseases can be rampant and great vigilance is required to prevent disease spread. Budgetary allocation is another key area which close attention needs to be paid, since funding affects all three components of the criminal justice system.
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- Bowman, G., Hakim, S., Seidenstat, P., & Burger, W. (1994). Privatizing correctional institutions. New Brunswick: Transaction.
- McElreath, D., Keena, L., Etter, G., & Stuart, J. (2011). Introduction to Corrections. Hoboken: CRC Press.
- Moore, J. (2003). Management and administration of correctional health care. Kingston, NJ: Civic Research Institute.
- Premchand, A. (1990). Government financial management. Washington: IMF.
- Rabin, J. (2003). Encyclopedia of public administration and public policy. New York: Marcel Dekker.