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Modern Penology
When we speak of justifying something, we normally pertain to the reasoning we
provide for doing a certain thing, both in terms of morality and in terms of the goal we
wish to achieve such as the condition that, if we do this, we will get this. Philosophical
justification of penology involves defining the concept of punishment and the values,
attitudes, and beliefs contained in that definition, as well as justifying the imposition of a
painful burden on someone. (Section I: The Philosophical and Ideological
Underpinnings of Corrections)
Legal Scholars have identified major justifications for the practice of punishing
criminals. These are utilitarianism, retributivism; social defense; deterrence; reductivism;
and probation
Utilitarianism is one of the most persuasive approaches to normative ethics in
the history of philosophy. This theory holds that the proper course of action is the one
that maximizes utility. It is also simply put as maximizing total benefit and reducing
suffering or the negative. It is an effort to provide an answer to the practical question
What ought a man to do? Its answer is that he ought to act so as to produce the best
consequences possible.
In the notion of consequences the Utilitarian includes all of the good and bad
produced by the act, whether arising after the act has been performed or during its
performance. If the difference in the consequences of alternative acts is not great, some
Utilitarians do not regard the choice between them as a moral issue. According to Mill,
acts should be classified as morally right or wrong only if the consequences are of such
significance that a person would wish to see the agent compelled, not merely
persuaded and exhorted, to act in the preferred manner. (West).
Retributivism advocates the punishment of criminals in retribution for the harm
they have inflicted. This theory of justice considers punishment, if proportionate, to be
the best way to fight criminality. Retribution should not be mistaken with vengeance


since retribution is directed only at wrongs, has inherent limits, is not personal, involves
no pleasure at the suffering of others, and employs procedural standards (Schwarma).
The oldest conception of Social defense basically means to the protection of
society by the repression of crime, but a more modern take would be the prevention of
crime and the treatment of offenders (Ancel, in Gerber and McAnny, 1972: 33). By and
large, the main thrust of social defense is to protect the public by preventing the
dangerous offender from further committing again another offense.
The approach based on general deterrence aims to dissuade others from
following the offenders example. Less concerned with the future behaviour of the
offender himself, general deterrence theories assume that, because most individuals
are rational, potential offenders will calculate the risk of being similarly caught,
prosecuted, and sentenced for the commission of a crime. Deterrence is the use of
punishment as a threat to deter people from offending. Deterrence is often contrasted
with retributivism, which holds that punishment is a necessary consequence of a crime
and should be calculated based on the gravity of the wrong done (General Detterence).
Deterrence is the use of punishment as a threat to deter people from offending.
Deterrence is often contrasted with retributivism, which holds that punishment is a
necessary consequence of a crime and should be calculated based on the gravity of the
wrong done.
The concept of deterrence has two key assumptions: the first is that specific
punishments imposed on offenders will "deter" or prevent them from committing further
crimes; the second is that fear of punishment will prevent others from committing similar
crimes (Detterence).
Reductivism is forward-looking (or consequentialist) theory. It seeks to justify
punishment by its projected consequences in the future. Punishment is justified,
because it helps to control crime. If punishment is inflicted, there will be less crime
committed thereafter than there would be if no penalty were imposed. Reductivist
arguments can be supported by the form of utilitarianism, which says that moral
actions are those that produce the greatest happiness of the greatest number of


people. If punishment does indeed reduce the future incidence of crime, then the pain
and unhappiness caused to the offender may be outweighed by the unpleasantness to
other people in the future which is prevented thus making punishment morally right
from a utilitarian point of view. But it is not necessary to be a utilitarian to be
reductivist. Indeed, it is argued that an alternative position (based on human rights)
which although non-utilitarian, nevertheless takes account of the possible reductivist
effects of punishment (Cavadino, August 3, 2007).
In criminal law, probation is a period of supervision over an offender, ordered by
a court instead of serving time in prison. In some jurisdictions, the term probation only
applies to community sentences (alternatives to incarceration), such as suspended
sentences. In others, probation also includes supervision of those conditionally released
from prison on parole (Probation).
An offender on probation is ordered to follow certain conditions set forth by the
court, often under the supervision of a probation officer. During this testing period, an
offender faces could still be sent back in prison, if found breaking the rules. Many
people who are convicted of crimes are placed on probation, instead of being sent to
prison. During probation, offenders must stay out of trouble and meet various other
requirements. Probation officers, who are called community supervision officers in some
states, supervise people who have been placed on probation.
Probation departments provide services to the community include recommending
sanctions to the court, enforcing court orders, operating correctional institutions,
incarcerating delinquents, assisting victims and providing corrective assistance to
individuals in conflict with the law. Probation officers investigate the background of
offenders brought before the court, write presentence reports, and make sentencing
recommendations for each offender. Officers review sentencing recommendations with
offenders and their families before submitting them to the court. Officers may be
required to testify in court as to their findings and recommendations. They also attend
court hearings to update the court on the offender's compliance with the terms of his or
her sentence and on the offender's efforts at rehabilitation. (US Legal)


The Social And Psychological Research On Punishment
An array of legal and philosophical writing provides rationale behind criminal
punishment, but only a few considers criminal punishment as social and psychological
phenomenon (Law and Society Review, Vol 14 no 3 Spring 1980). This situation is
changing little by little as scholars are now studying more the social and psychological
aspects of the practice of punishment.
In recent years, research interest has increased both in the needs of punishment
by the public and in the psychological processes underlying decisions on sentencing.
The potential role of social psychology in answering questions like, In a court case,
how might the personal characteristics of a defendant or the situational characteristics
of the courtroom influence decisions made by the judge or jury members?, Can we
increase the effectiveness of prisons by altering their social climates and creating more
humane environments behind bars? are being looked into. This type of research uses
the arguments of personalities from the field of human behavior. To cite, Schuller and
Ogloff (2001) stated: Given that public policies, laws, and court decisions are based on
assumptions about human behavior, the very subject matter of psychology,
psychologists can play a vital and important role in this area (p. 6). Consider also that
criminal behavior is a social act, involving violations of socially defined laws. Some
crimes are committed against people directly, including both violent offenses (e.g.,
murder, robbery, uttering a death threat) and nonviolent offenses (e.g., fraud,
voyeurism, exhibitionism). In many cases, particularly among youths, crimes are
committed by groups of individuals acting together. What social psychologists bring to
these issues are theories and methodologies that take into account the role of both the
person and the situation to account for behavior. This approach provides a more
integrative and multilevel framework for addressing the issue of crime than does
focusing only on the person or only on the environment (Bieneck & Hupfeld-Heinemann,
March 2009)


What is the cultural significance of punishment in a society?
The connections between Punishment and Society are more complex,
multifarious and problematic than we might otherwise suppose. There is more going on
than can be captured by a jurisprudential eye on the law and its violation. Explorations
by social scientists focus on the hard connections of the social system. These are
institutional and organizational environments and objective patterns of inequality.
Generally speaking punishment is said to reflect the social structures into which it is
embedded and to reproduce these in turn (Smith, 2012).
Further, in Law and Politics Book Review, Brown insightfully reviews recent
efforts to theorize the rise of mass incarceration and suggests that these efforts point to,
but rarely acknowledge, the importance of penal spectatorship. Much punishment and
society literature explores the role of punishment in shaping politically privileged
subjectivities, but ignores the domains in which much of this spectatorship takes places.
Taking them seriously will require not simply engaging with these domains, but with
scholarship in cultural studies, and the humanities more generally, that concerns itself
with punishment and more broadly with the social production of pain (Jonathan Simon).
Case study: Suannes Story from London Probation Trust
Suanne first got into trouble at the age of 17 for minor offences, such as
shoplifting, due to peer pressure. She kept doing it for the buzz and because it was
easy money. Shortly afterwards, she fell pregnant and left school to care for her son.
She ended up having a string of abusive partners and was running from refuge to
refuge and spent twenty years like that. During this period, Suanne endured three
abusive relationships and in her early 20s a partner introduced her to fraud. During her
thirties, Suanne also battled with alcohol and drug addiction. After coming out of prison,
Suanne admits that, for a while, she was living a double life. Things just spiraled after
she got out from prison. I got bigger and better at the game. She d always worked. She
was holding down a full time job during the week and at the weekend was doing fraud to
fund my drug habit. After a further arrest, Suanne was determined to put a stop to her
offending. She realised that being in prison for over a year had meant missing out on a


massive chunk of my childrens lives. Whilst in prison, Suanne completed Open
University course in Social Science. She did really well and was interested in becoming
a social worker. Further she realised it would be difficult with a criminal record. For five
years, Suanne stayed away from crime. However, stressed out by pressure at work, she
returned to her old ways and started committing credit card fraud. She was later
arrested for these offences and it was at this point that her probation officer
recommended the intensive Structured Supervision for Women as an alternative to
custody. (London Probation Trust) The intensive Structured Supervision effectively
healed Suanne and allowed her to live a better life.
Objectives of Probation
Often probation is forgotten when the criminal justice system is being discussed.
Most people will likely mention the police, prosecution and prison. What is rarely realize
is the role of probation staff in the rehabilitation of offenders, preventing and reducing
re-offending, and making sure offenders comply with their licence, or other, conditions.
Nonetheless, there are many success stories of offenders that underwent probation
program and go on to forge a new and positive life.
One of the main probation objectives for almost all probation departments is
defendant accountability. Often, offenders blame parents, society or life circumstances
and refuse to take responsibility for their behavior. As a probationer changes his
perspective, he begins to realize he can change his situation and improve his life.
Offender rehabilitation is another relevant probation goal. Part of the process of
offender accountability is rehabilitation as offenders see they have viable choices.
Defendants also need secure, effective and safe incarceration and treatment
facilities. Custody in the form of brief jail terms can sometimes motivate offenders
towards compliance when other alternatives fail. The goals of law-abiding behavior, and
even more important, a productive lifestyle which gives back to the community fulfill the
true objectives of probation.
Probation Today, Trends and Issues in Probation


Today, a larger number of offenders are being referred to probation program.
Probation departments have become seriously under-staffed just as they are being
relied upon more heavily than at any point in history; probation rather than prison, is the
most prevalent form of punishment. Probation officers have become less and less
involved in their traditional role, more kin to social work and are more consumed with
law enforcement, tracking down those who have violated the terms of freedom.

The case overload grows worse as state budgets shrink. The number of people
under some of correctional control grows in many countries. In the United States has
the highest of any country in the world, including China with a population of 1.3 billion.
As of 2010, according to statistics published by the Pew Center, U.S. Federal and State
inmates numbered 1,212,171. This number does not include those held in city and
county lockups. The number of people on probation and parole in the United States is
over 5 million, approximately the population of Minnesota (Goff).
The probation must promote education and employment more than ensuring that
the offenders have completed their time inside the institutions. Many of the probation
officers are held accountable for the failures of other elements of the criminal justice.
Indoubtedly people who dedicatedly work in probation system must be given support.
Some trends in the probation system which are intended to improve the system
include Office Automation, Electronic monitoring, Officer Safety, Alternative Sanctions,
Employment selection process, and Gridlock.
Office Automation
Hard copy, manually maintained probation and parole files require thousands of
square feet of storage, plus staff support to locate these files, prepare them for storage,
attend to them, and work with them. Probation officers are required to maintain case
books, that record contacts with and progress of offenders, and monitor compliance with
court ordered conditions, treatment programs, and community services. Computer
equipment, programs, and automation have become a major part of probation and
parole offices. Although automation at one time only tracked offenders, newer systems


allow for automated case review programs, investigative tracking, and automated
accounting systems. Office automation, if fully implemented, may eliminate the need for
file storage space. Probation officers will be able to electronically create offender files,
that can later be accessed for review by anyone with a need and right to know
Electronic monitoring
Ten years ago, monitoring the whereabouts of an offender by the use of an
electronic monitor, appeared light years away. This view was less than realistic when
we consider that endangered species have been monitored electronically for many
years. Cold War espionage employed the use of electronic monitoring devices. And the
Florida corrections system has actively participated in a monitoring program for more
than ten years.

Officer safety

The safety of officers in the field called for renewed interest in special risk
retirement and the associated benefits of this retirement class. Other law enforcement
entities recognize the value of probation and parole officers and appreciate the job they
do. They also are aware of the dangers probation and parole officers encounter in
working with offenders in the community:
The increased demand for thorough criminal sanctions and a retributive
correctional mandate, the focus of probation and parole has shifted from an
emphasis on rehabilitation to one of surveillance. With that shift, the nature of
the worker/client relationship has become more adversarial. (Parsonage &
Breshey, 1990, p. 68)

Employment selection process

Recruitment and selection of employees relies on identified KSA's (knowledge,
skills, and abilities) necessary to perform the duties of a correctional probation and
parole officer. Although applicants often have only a limited understanding of what is


expected for the position, they tend to interview well.
These recruits are indoctrinated into the fold by academy instructors who
espouse the caring and helping philosophy of the agency. However, when these recruits
return from the academy, they hear and see experienced officers who very much
represent an antithesis of caring and helping. Making unfriendly and demeaning
references to offenders tends to change the helping attitude.

Alternative sanctions

There is a generally increasing trend in the use of alternative sanctions, such as
community control. A. Community Control is an intensive supervision or house arrest
program, first implemented by the Florida Department of Corrections in 1983.
This program has increased sanctions over probation. Offenders placed in this
form of supervision often have already been supervised on probation, and violated or
had offenses serious enough to "score them out" to a term in state prison. The program
was designed as an alternative to prison attempting to relieve prison overcrowding.
Offenders are prohibited from leaving their residences without express
permission from their officers. Very tight control, particularly through frequent contact, is
maintained over these offenders.
Another is the Probation Restitution Centers. Probation Restitution Centers are
half-way facilities designed to assist the offender who has had difficulty adjusting to
supervision. These offenders are generally youthful offenders who have demonstrated a
disregard for theconditions of their supervision and are delinquent in the payment of
monetary obligations, i.e., court costs, restitution, and court impact fees.
The center emphasizes employment and educational development. Offenders
are required to maintain employment while in custody at the facility. The facility is not
secured and offenders can leave at any point, that unfortunately, occurs from time to


The Criminal Justice Estimation Conference projected that gridlock will occur,
despite alternative sanctions and release programs. The lack of available prison beds
will result in the doors at Florida prisons closing, and more offenders will be diverted to
probation and control release programs.
Changes in probation and parole service, combined with changes caused by
Socio-economic and political events, have caused the varied functions of probation and
parole to become more control oriented. However, staff have persistently continued to
support a change orientation (Brown)


Works Cited

Bieneck, S., & Hupfeld-Heinemann, M. E. (March 2009). Social Psychology of
Punishment of Crime. Wiley-blackwell.
Brown, I. (n.d.). The Changing Role of Probation and Parole: A view of the Future.
Retrieved May 15, 2014, from http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/:
Cavadino. (August 3, 2007). Justifying Punishment. Sage Publication .
Detterence. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2014, from wikipedia.org:
General Detterence. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2014, from Britannica Encyclopedia:
Goff, S. (n.d.). Probation & Parole Issues. Retrieved May 15, 2014, from eHow.com:
Jonathan Simon, A. A. (n.d.). Law and Politics Book Review. Retrieved May 15, 2014,
from http://www.lpbr.net/2011/12/culture-of-punishment-prison-society.html
London Probation Trust. (n.d.). Retrieved May 15, 2014, from london-probation.org:
Probation. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2014, from Worddictionary.com.au:
Schwarma, B. (n.d.). RETRIBUTIVIST THEORY OF PUNISHMENT. Retrieved May 14,
2014, from catelighter:


Section I: The Philosophical and Ideological Underpinnings of Corrections. (n.d.). Sage
Publication , 5.
Smith, P. (2012). Chapter 5: Punishment and Meaning: The Cultural Sociological
Approach. In J. S. Sparks, The SAGE Handbook of Punishment and Society. Sage
US Legal. (n.d.). Probation Law and Legal Definition. Retrieved May 15, 2014, from
USLegal.com: http://definitions.uslegal.com/p/probation/
West, H. R. (n.d.). Utilitarianism. Retrieved May 14, 2014, from Encyclopedia Britannica: