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Purpose of Corrections

Purpose of Corrections

The four functions of corrections: retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation

Deterrence refers to preventing future crime by instilling fear in an offender. It includes general steps, which apply to the general public, and specific deterrence, which applies to an individual offender. In Western developed countries, legislative responses to drug trafficking, terrorist attacks, violent abductions, and child abductions on school property have been directed mainly at increasing the duration or severity of punishments. Incapacitation focuses on preventing crime by removing the offender from society by confining them in a specific place. The conditions for confinement may be too harsh that they reduce the offender’s consequent desire to engage in misconduct. Examples of incapacitation are early tribal practices of banishing offenders to the wilderness, exiling citizens in Greek society, and political exile in recent times because they involve physically removing a person from their former communities, thus restricting their physical opportunity for conducting offenses in the original setting. Rehabilitation prevents crime by altering the behavior of an offender. The earliest forms of rehabilitation were towers, dungeons, and caves. The idea of confining offenders is also in the context of religious penance in Christian and Judaism practices in Western Europe and the British colonies in North America. Retribution focuses on preventing crime by removing the desire for personal vengeance against the offender. The principle of retributive justice, which emphasizes ensuring that the punishment fits the crime, was the basis for the practices used in criminal sentencing in much of Western Europe in the 19th century.

Arguments for and criticisms of each of the four correction functions

Deterrence is effective in preventing crime because potential offenders are afraid to commit crimes because they are afraid of what will happen to them. It also promotes justice by allowing punishment to be imposed based on its disproportional relation to the harm done by the offender. One of the criticisms of this correction function is that it is neither morally acceptable nor effective. There is also uncertainty about its effectiveness due to limited proof demonstrating whether punishment deters potential offenders from committing a crime in the future. The main argument for rehabilitation is that criminal behavior is not a rational choice but is influenced by psychological difficulties, social pressures, or situations of different kinds. This correction function has been criticized for holding a largely deterministic view of the behavior that places too much emphasis on cultural and social conditions and too little on a person’s ability to make choices and decisions. Another criticism is that it conflicts with the idea of a right not to be punished disproportionately while removing limits on the extent of intervention or treatment. The main argument for incapacitation is effective in preventing crime because it disables or restricts an offender’s movements, liberty, and ability to commit a further wrong. The main criticism of incapacitation is that incapacitating sentences are only effective in punishing people for crimes not yet committed. The main argument for retribution is that it removes the unethical advantage offenders have over their law-abiding counterparts and tries to restore balance to society by validating how people ought to act in society. The main criticism is the difficulties of ranking or ordering offenses. Punishing individuals due to their wrong acts fails to address the underlying social conditions and causes that have led to criminality, and that punishment needs to incorporate a more rehabilitative approach.

The current state of each of the four corrections functions in the United States

According to Smykla & Schmalleger (2014), the current crime rates in the United States are reducing but the number of people under correctional supervision, either on parole or probation, has started declining. The deterrence rate is high based on the findings of the study conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (2018), indicating that almost half of the prisoners released from prison had not been arrested within three years after release. The number of people on probation has also increased by almost 300% hence demonstrating an increase in retribution. The prison population has increased by more than 400%, thus demonstrating an increase in rehabilitation. The rate of federal imprisonment has also increased by 500% hence demonstrating that incapacitation has increased. The increase in federal imprisonment is attributed to the increase in the number of dangerous criminals in society, such as drug traffickers and murderers.

Corrections improvements included in the Psychology, Criminality, and Incarceration in America video that appear promising and explain why you think so.

One of the corrections improvements included in the video is revising the risk assessment of an offender. This improvement focuses on locking up the most dangerous criminals instead of diverting money and time to incarcerate the wrong people (Lary, 2010). I think this reform appears to be promising because it will ensure that the most dangerous criminals who have a high propensity of re-offending remain in prison. The second reform is providing good time credits for proper behavior and completing counseling or training programs during incarceration (Lary, 2010). This correction appears to be promising because it will encourage offenders to behave well so that they get rewarded hence reducing the chances of committing crime again. The third reform is job training. This reform appears to be promising because it will enable offenders to get skills they can use to start their businesses or get employed hence having a source of income instead of relying on crime to get money.


Bureau of Justice Statistics. May 2018. 2018 Update on Prisoner Recidivism: A 9-Year Follow-up Period (2005-2014) [PDF].

Lary, B. (2010). Psychology, Criminality, and Incarceration in America [Video].

Smykla, J., & Schmalleger, F. (2014). Corrections in the 21st century. McGraw-Hill Education.


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To successfully complete this assignment, you will need to:
Refer to:
The video, Psychology, Criminality, and Incarceration in America (30:19).
The textbook readings for the first three weeks of the course.
An Overview of the First Step Act.
This resource provides a thumbnail description of 2018’s First Step Act. This Act’s purpose is to: improve criminal justice outcomes, reduce the size of the Federal prison population, and create mechanisms to maintain public safety.

Purpose of Corrections

Purpose of Corrections

The First Step Act of 2018: An Overview [PDF].
This resource provides a more detailed overview of the First Step Act’s effect on inmates and their families.
Use the Strayer University Library to conduct research on the four functions of corrections.
The Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice library guide is a good place to start your research.
According to your textbook, the United States has experienced a corrections explosion over the past 40 years, despite a decrease in serious crime during this same period. Consider statistics such as these. Since 1980, the:
The number of people on probation has increased by nearly 300%.
The prison population has increased by more than 400%.
The federal imprisonment rate has increased 500% (Schmalleger, 2021).
Even though we are in the midst of a period of mass incarceration in the United States, we know that incarceration doesn’t work. Consider this quote from the video, Psychology, Criminality, and Incarceration in America: “Prisons don’t work. People do not get corrected in today’s prisons. Convicts come out worse than when they went in and are even a greater threat to society than before” (Lary, 2010). The Bureau of Justice Statistics has evidence supporting this sentiment. The 2018 Update on Prisoner Recidivism states an estimated:

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