The Utility and Consequences of Mass Incarceration Name: Institution: Author note: The Utility and Consequences of Mass Incarceration Some verdicts in many cases in American courts indicate that the pledge to ensure liberty and justice for all can never be a reality in American society (Lynch and Sabol 2000)…
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Another 5 million people face drastic limitations on their liberty through probation and parole. In total, 7.4 million Americans are under supervision of the American criminal justice system. This makes 2% of the American population which is the highest rate of incarceration in the world (Lynch and Sabol 2000). This high incarceration level has raised questions among all the members of the American society. Some people have complained about the racial disparity observed in imprisonments while others have questioned its effectiveness in combating crime (Lynch and Sabol 2000). Even with these questions, the state of imprisonment in America has not changed and consequently many scholars have been attracted to find out its implications. Many have had interests with the theories that have been put in place about the ability of the incarceration to reduce crime rates in America. There are numerous theories that have emerged in the field of criminology. Labeling theory is one of the theories in this respect. The theory focuses on the role of social processes and government agencies in deviance and crime creation. Labeling theories are referred to as social reaction theories due to their focus on the reaction to crime (Lynch and Sabol 2000). It is part of the criminological theory of sanctions that examines the emotional response to label. The theory considers three major actors which are informal social others, institutions and those who want amendments of law to outlaw some behaviors (Lynch and Sabol 2000). The informal others are people close to the offenders such as partners, parents, friends and people who sympathize with the offenders. The institutions involved are the criminal justice systems that ensure that crimes are prevented and justice served. All these actors have reactions which attach a signature or a name to someone or their behavior. The two hypotheses involved in the theory are the status characteristics hypothesis and secondary deviance hypothesis (Lynch and Sabol 2000). Status characteristic hypothesis states that labels are imposed in part due to the status of those labeled and those doing the labeling. The deviance hypothesis on the other hand, argues that deviant labels cause problems that require the person being labeled to adapt to and may lead to greater deviance and involvement in crime (Lynch and Sabol 2000). The terms used to classify and describe people influence their behavior and self identity. The majority in the society may label minorities and this may make them behave in the ways acceptable by standard cultural norms. This theory involves examination of exact causes of crimes and deviance by examining possibilities of biological, psychological and sociological factors. The reaction to crimes is the center of the theory but not the causes of crimes as many could expect. The theory categorically states that there is no particular behavior which has anything deviant about it but the external forces make people acquire deviant traits. Labels imposed to people make them to develop a mechanism to cope with the labels (Steiker 2011). The mechanisms which are mostly developed are towards more involvement in crime and deviant acts. The sanctions designed against the actions of the offender rather than the offender himself/herself help to bring the offender back to the society and are likely to reduce crime. On the other hand, those sanctions which stigmatize the offenders make them feel rejected in the society and
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