Edited by: William J. Chambliss

  • Citations
  • Add to My List
  • Text Size

  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Copyright

    View Copyright Page


    Not long ago, the field now known as corrections was called penology. Literally, penology meant the scientific study of punishment. Then, as now, the word scientific was something of a misnomer, since any attempt to analyze or discuss punishment is fraught with social policy implications that do not lend themselves readily to scientific conclusions. Nonetheless, as the chapters in this volume demonstrate, social scientists attempt to rest their policy recommendations on the best available scientific evidence. Unfortunately, science rarely produces policy conclusions on which there is consensus. Even the most highly developed sciences like quantum mechanics are fraught with conflicting theories and therefore different implications of what social policies should follow. Some physical and mathematical scientists applied the knowledge of the field to the production of nuclear weapons, while others, like Albert Einstein, steadfastly rejected the morality of using his theories for the purpose of constructing such devastating weapons.

    What used to be known as penology is conventionally referred to as corrections, which is also in some ways a misleading term. The word corrections implies that the goal of prisons, parole, probation, and other forms of sanctioning behavior defined as illegal is to correct people'behavior. As the chapters in this volume point out, however, there are many reasons why illegal behavior is sanctioned: revenge; incapacitation of the offender so they cannot reoffend; and rehabilitation, which is closest to the notion that criminal justice sanctions are correction oriented.

    Whatever the goal of the legal institutions subsumed under the name corrections, the fact is that only a small fraction of the crimes committed result in the offender entering the correctional branch of the criminal justice system. The chapters in this volume look at the correctional system and then offer arguments for and against the practice of the laws and policies that make up the correctional system from parole and probation to imprisonment, to the application of the death penalty. The chapters look at what the goals of the correctional system should be, how these goals should be achieved, and who should decide; current conditions within the correctional system that impact the environment; and how offenders should be treated while under the correctional system in order to maintain a balance between the system'ability to meet its goals and the inmates' civil rights.

    First, it is necessary to address the purpose of the correctional system. Throughout this volume, a number of chapters will address what the goals of the correctional system have been historically, what they are today, and how changes have taken place over time. In their chapter Rehabilitation vs. Punishment, Faye Taxman and Danielle Rudes provide an overview of the intended purposes of corrections: deterrence, incapacitation, retribution, rehabilitation, or expiation.

    The purpose of corrections greatly relates to and affects how prisoners and those on supervised release are treated. The intended goal of corrections also affects the type of sentence that inmates will receive. If the goal is deterrence or incapacitation, should early release or work furloughs be given to prisoners? Rudes and Taxman help answer this question in their chapter Early Release, as does Brenda Vose in Furloughs and Work Release Programs.

    If the goal is rehabilitation, should shaming techniques, life sentences, or the death penalty be used? Leonard Steverson'chapter Shaming Penalties gives a historical overview of many types of punishments that have been used in order to shame offenders and discusses the pros and cons of using these methods. If the goal is expiation, is it acceptable to use preventive detention? Should the executive branch be allowed to award clemency? Margaret Leigey'chapter Life Sentences looks at the pros and cons of life sentences; the impact these sentences have on the inmate, prisons, and society; and the differences between life sentences with parole and life sentences without parole. William Wood'chapter on capital punishment gives an overview of the death penalty across time and space and weighs the debatable negative and positive effects of putting offenders to death for their crimes.

    Next, a number of the chapters give an inside view of the current state of the correctional system so that its environment can be better understood. Gang violence, as discussed by Kristine M. Levan, is a huge problem faced by jails and prisons. Levan'chapter gives an overview of the types of gangs in the correctional system, who is involved, and how they are operated. She also discusses the activities that gangs are frequently involved in—including the inmate economy and violence—and possible ways to reduce gang related violence in jails and prisons.

    Many of the problems in the correctional system are due to overcrowding and understaffing, which is related to budgetary restrictions, particularly as incarceration rates soar while states' economies are suffering. One method of trying to reduce costs has been to privatize the prison system. Antje Deckert and William Wood discuss the reasons why some prisons have been privatized, as well as the pros and cons of housing and supervising inmates in the private sector instead of government facilities. Although initial savings may be beneficial, legal, safety, and ethical issues bring into question the long-term benefits of privatization.

    Finally, while incarcerated or on supervised release, offenders posses a very unique status as they are the responsibility of the state and are under the state'control, yet they also maintain certain constitutional and human rights. They do not, however, maintain all of the rights traditionally given by the U.S. Constitution. There is a great deal of controversy about what rights prisoners and those on supervised release should maintain, and what rights they should be forced to give up as part of their punishment so that the correctional facility can safely and effectively maintain control and meet its intended goals. It is generally accepted that some rights must be relinquished, but which ones, to what degree, and for how long they should be relinquished is debatable.

    In particular, the chapters Religious Rights (Kamesha Spates and Michael Royster), Free Speech Rights of Prisoners (Julie Beck), Due Process Rights of Prisoners (Kenneth Haas), and Legal Assistance for Prisoners (Christopher Smith) discuss prisoner rights issues and the ongoing struggle between prisoners and the state. Additionally, Cruel and Unusual Punishment by Smith discusses prison conditions and treatment of prisoners, including different types of punishment such as capital punishment and isolation, and how over time the definition of cruel and unusual has changed.

    William J.Chambliss General Editor
  • About the General Editor

    William J. Chambliss is professor of sociology at The George Washington University. He has written and edited more than 25 books and numerous articles for professional journals in sociology, criminology, and law. His work integrating the study of crime with the creation and implementation of criminal law has been a central theme in his writings and research. His articles on the historical development of vagrancy laws, the legal process as it affects different social classes and racial groups, and his attempt to introduce the study of state-organized crimes into the mainstream of social science research have punctuated his career.

    He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including a Doctorate of Laws Honoris Causa, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada, 1999; the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award, Sociology of Law, American Sociological Association; the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award, Law and Society, Society for the Study of Social Problems; the 2001 Edwin H. Sutherland Award, American Society of Criminology; the 1995 Major Achievement Award, American Society of Criminology; the 1986. Distinguished Leadership in Criminal Justice, Bruce Smith, Sr. Award, Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences; and the 1985 Lifetime Achievement Award, Criminology, American Sociological Association.

    Professor Chambliss is a past president of the American Society of Criminology and past president of the Society for the Study of Social Problems. His current research covers a range of lifetime interests in international drug-control policy, class, race, gender and criminal justice and the history of piracy on the high seas.

    • Loading...
Back to Top

Copy and paste the following HTML into your website