Punishment has been and still is a major part of the criminal justice system. Punishment is effective in some instances but is also ineffective in others. Every criminal is different in some ways. Each offender will have a different way of reacting to consequences, outcomes of incidents, and influences obtained from their environment. There are many ways to make punishment successful in rehabilitating offenders, whether it is through forms of deterrence or incapacitation. Although deterrence is effective, there is no way to measure how effective it really is. Society only sees the offenders that were not successfully deterred and cannot measure those that chose a better path. For instance, general deterrence affects the population as a whole. People are influenced by their fear of being caught and the punishment, therefore they choose not to commit crimes. The more severe, certain, and swift the punishment is, the more likely it is to control crime. On the other hand, the specific deterrence theory holds that the crime rate can be reduced if known offenders are punished so severely that they never commit a crime again. According to Clear, Cole, and Reisig (2006), the punishment must be so harsh in order to make the offender say, “The consequences of my crime were too painful. I won’t commit that crime again because I don’t want to risk being punished again.” (p. 66). I think it depends on the offender as to if deterrence has a positive affect or not. Deterrence does not necessarily have an affect on those offenders who spontaneously steal or damage property. Other factors of why deterrence would not have an affect would be if the criminal had a mental illness, psychological problems, or if they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. As Van Voorhis reported, “Some criminals must be put away for a long time. Incapacitation is the only sure way to stop a criminal. If our current sentences are not solving the crime problem, we must not be administrating enough punishment” (p. 2). Many people view incapacitation as the solution of lowering and solving crime problems. They have the mentality of locking up offenders and throwing away the key. Instead, the criminal justice systems believes that offenders can be confined within secure sanctions and will successfully be prohibited from being a danger to society or committing further crimes during their sentence. For example, under the incapacitation theory, a woman who kills her abusive husband as an emotional reaction to his verbal insults and physical assaults could receive a light sentence (Clear et al., 2006). In my opinion, it depends on the offender and what is going through their mind. If a criminal has the mens rea to commit a robbery, then deterrence may or may not have an affect. One would hope that after being punished for those crimes, that particular offender would realize that they will be caught more often than not.
I also think that the environment criminals live in has an affect of whether or not they choose to commit crime and become repeated offenders. If the environment that someone lives in is a poor inner city neighborhood they are more likely to commit a crime than an individual living in a suburb. The youth of these neighborhoods are at a great risk than all. They are seeing what their older brothers or sisters are doing and want to follow their footsteps. They are influenced by the decisions they make and their friends make. When children get to middle school and high school age, peer pressure plays as a major role of why juveniles commit crimes. They want others to see that they are not afraid to do illegal acts and think that it makes them cool. I think there needs to be harsher consequences for these youth offenders so they will not continue these acts throughouttheir lives. I think there should be more opportunities for these youth offenders to see what life in prison is like. They should see inmates that are currently in prison, recently released from prison, and previous inmates. They should see the difficulty that convicts face when trying to find jobs, adapt to society, and get the respect every other citizen receives. According to Jiang (2007), “Furthermore, retribution is the strongest predictor in the United States, whereas deterrence is the strongest predictor in China” (p. 84). The criminal justice system works differently in other countries than the United States, therefore not one method is the best for rehabilitating criminals. In conclusion, criminals have to be willing to change their ways and become an ideal citizen. It may be hard for offenders that have been incarcerated for so long to adapt to society once they are released, but they must be willing to obey the laws, make good decisions, and choose the right behavior for situations. Rehabilitation is an objective of society to reinstate a criminal after being incarcerated through training and therapy. “For rehabilitation to be complete, society […] has to accept that [rehabilitated persons] are now respectable citizens, and no longer to hold their past against them” (p. 4). Many people view rehabilitation as the most successful justification for the use of punishment.