In order to provide an accurate analysis of weather community punishment is more effective than imprisonment, one must first clearly define the two methods of educating offenders. Community punishment takes the form of varying schemes that do not remove the liberty of an offender, schemes such as community rehabilitation orders which involve the offender being monitored by a probation officer and attendance centre order which denies the offender leisure time. Imprisonment as we all know is the “locking up” of offenders for increasing amounts of years dependant on the severity of the crime.
Community punishment as mentioned before is varying in its applications, this is advantageous as it can deal with varying types and severity of crime. The community punishment order is the courts main alternative to imprisonment, it forces offenders to take part in unpaid community work with tasks shrub clearance, church renovations, lock-fitting schemes and many more the order can be made for a minimum 40 hours and a maximum of 240 hours dependant on the severity of the crime.
The order is generally seen as a very effective alternative to imprisonment. The community rehabilitation order is less of a punishment order and more of a getting back on track order. The offender is supervised by a probation officer who devises an action plan for the offender, if the offender fails to take a keen interest in it or fails to attend a meeting with the officer then he or she can alert the court who will re-sentence. It offers a push towards getting a job which is seen as very helpful for the rehabilitation of offenders.
Other orders include a mixture of the previously mentioned orders this is seen as the best of both orders providing punishment and then offering rehabilitation. Other orders include a tagging order the basically put the offender under house arrest during certain times during the day this in theory keeps the offender from re-offending however there is no counselling or pressure to enter the labour market. The court may also demand a fine be paid in order to “pay Back” for the crime committed but this is realistically a bad practice as the offender may have to find a considerable amount of money and thus may resort to offending in order to get the required money. In general community punishment seeks to punish and rehabilitate offenders without involving imprisonment.
Imprisonment is simply the taking away of an offender’s liberty. There are various types of imprisonment and there are also varying aims of imprisonment. When we think about imprisonment most people believe it is the best way of dealing with offenders, “commit the crime and serve the time” being a prominent saying when the topic of imprisonment is raised. The Prison service has differing categories of prison which means generally that offenders of the same category of crime are placed together.
A prison sentence can range from a number of days to life. The main role of imprisonment is to punish offenders by taking their liberty but it also takes away the chance for offenders to re-offend as offending in prison is not a likely occurrence. The thought of imprisonment can also be seen as a deterrent for some offenders. It is seen by many as the best way in which to stop people re-offending by taking the offenders liberty for a period of time they will be unlikely to want to lose it again is the theory of an older generation.
Vinnie Jones did community punishment for assaulting an air stewardess it illustrates how celebrities are really embarrassed of their crimes if they are forced to do unpaid work much like Wynona Ryder in America these cases show the humiliation factor in community punishment. we mere mortals could be said to be less focused on such frivolities as reputation, but I think that if we were to put the average teenage thief in the lock up for a while, they would probably rejoice in the bolstering of their tough guy reputation.
This would be far less likely to occur if the punishment was less exotic such as sweeping the streets. The average misguided youth, presented with the embarrassment and negative kudos of working in such a remedial task under forced circumstances would be likely to spend time considering the repercussions of his actions and how they will have negative effects on him or herself, and also the surrounding community. They might give more serious thought to further education so that they can avoid doing such jobs as a future career, so the benefits are manifold.
Look to the youth in who is left to stew in a prison cell, and we are more likely to see someone who will want to reject authority and think more about how they can avoid capture in future. This is on top of other negative aspects to imprisonment which include the cost to the local authorities, and repercussions such as the familiarity that inmates gain, such as knowledge of the local criminal fraternity, knowledge and guidance about how to commit more serious crimes and how to theoretically avoid capture, and the attached stigma and difficulties in finding future employment that those who have been genuinely reformed by the prison system may encounter upon their release. Those who have carried out some form of community help may find that this is viewed in a slightly more optimistic light by members of society who are not used to contact with those who have a chequered past.
In the Mark Herman film, ‘Purely Belter’ (2000), we see the criminal activities of two wayward Geordie lads who are still supposed to be at school. Various attempts had been made by their school, local education authorities and the Newcastle police force, such as initiatives involving positive reinforcement and encouragement to stay in school, and efforts are clearly made by authorities (and subsequently disregarded) throughout the film, until the conclusion, where, as a punishment for a failed robbery offence, they are given community service, and the film portrays this as a very positive outcome for the loveable rogue characters, as they carry out the duties in the neighbourhood surrounding their beloved Newcastle United football club.
This media presentation of community punishment as being one of a relatively recent trend towards so called ‘soft-touch’ punishments shows that people are still of the mindset that imprisonment is the only way to reform offenders. We can safely say that this mindset is somewhat dated as imprisonment is working and some community punishment is by no means a soft-touch it is sometimes extremely hard for the offender. One thing that should also be considered is the cost to imprison an offender is extremely expensive even for a short term, whereas community punishment is cheaper and for those offenders who are remorseful more effective.
There are other methods of dealing with offenders used in other countries for example in New Zealand a form of Maori justice is used. In this system offenders are brought in front of the victim of the crime and are made to apologise after hearing how the victim was injured and how the victim felt emotionally it is also common that a punishment is put forward by the victim in the form of community service and/or a fine. This process of making the offender face the victim is proving fairly effective. Also to be considered is the process of the US justice system of “three strikes” in this process an offender with two convictions will be severely punished on their third conviction. This works as an excellent deterrent from re-offending as does the death penalty, both processes are shock deterrents from crime.
To conclude it is not as simple a question to ask weather community punishment is effective as imprisonment as it is dependant on the willingness and background of the offender in my opinion. I believe that community punishment is a successful process involving the offender being shamed by the community then paying back the community and lastly being reintegrated unlike the process of imprisonment in which an offender is locked up away from the victims of the crime who are unable to see their remorse that is if there is any it also allows offenders to mingle with other offenders sometimes of more serious crimes than their own and thus the process is flawed as it fails to re-educate offenders and then fails again to reintegrate the offenders into the community.
However It would be a different matter when considering the punishment of murderers and alike as community punishment is unsatisfactory it would be my suggestion that following their time in prison a community punishment order may be a good method of reintegrating and re-educating. So in answer to the question do you think community punishment is more effective than imprisonment I would say dependant on the type of crime then yes with view of moving closer to the Maori justice system which I believe will greatly reduce re-offending rates.
The Oxford Handbook of Criminology
Maguire, Morgan and Reiner.
viewed on 16th February 2004
Prison on trial: a critical assessment