For many years now, we have watched the pendulum of corrections in our country swing from one extreme to the other. At times, we only focus on the premise of locking offenders up and throwing away the key. While at other times, we find ourselves focused on treatment and rehabilitation. Neither idea is new, perhaps only the way we go about applying them. Many factors, right or wrong, impact on the philosophy of the day. Social issues such as crime rates, funding and political power play key roles in how corrections does business.
During the times when we are only thinking about the "lock 'em up" theory, emphasis is placed on longer sentences, fewer paroles, higher security levels and virtually no focus on rehabilitative programs. Most of the funds allocated to correctional departments during this time are devoted to security personnel (i.e., officers), and more of them are needed to handle the continuously growing inmate populations. But the soaring costs do not stop there. More funds are needed for inmates' needs such as food, clothing and health care. Some of these costs will have long-term effects. For example, under the "lock 'em up" theory, inmates will be spending longer terms in prison. That means that more inmates will grow old in prison. The older they get, the greater the need for extensive medical attention and medication. We all know the costs associated with medical coverage these days. Pointing out these rising costs is not by any means an endorsement for shorter sentences or more liberal paroles, but is merely intended to illuminate the problems that executive-level administrators, legislators, governors and citizens will have to face at some time in the near future.
Also, the "lock 'em up" theory does not adequately, or fails altogether to, address the issue of where we are going to put these people who we lock up. The costs associated with building new prisons are staggering. As offenders and the crimes they commit become more high-tech, so must the prisons we build to house them in. Many jurisdictions have entertained, where practicable, retrofitting their existing prisons with high-tech equipment. However, they are finding that in many cases those costs are equal to or greater than the cost of new prisons. In other cases, older prisons are being required to handle those high-tech inmates without benefit of any renovations.
The demands of society and the response by our politicians and legislators have been heard. Law...