Critical Criminology: Examining the Role of Prisons and their Efficiency IntroductionCriminal activity in the 21st century has been primarily being viewed from the perspective of zones, with criminal activity, particularly violent and traditional crimes, have been concentrated in certain areas. This has been somewhat confirmed through surveys claiming areas with high rates of poverty and unemployment. Traditional crimes, such as robbery, are focused on in the media and in social circles. Critical criminology expands the scrutiny of crime to actions and habit that create or inflict harm. Theories of critical criminology posits that crime is a social and political construct and focus on the acts that cause harm rather than those that violate criminal laws. Power and influence of certain entities, such as the government and corporations, cannot be understated in how society views crime. Welch (1996) traces the origins of critical criminology to Marxist social theory. Aspects of social control, economic disenfranchisement and political favoring are explored in critical criminology. Long (2016) identifies the role of powerful entities in how society labels deviant or criminal behavior. The broadening of definitions of traditional crime creates a platform from which aspects that do not meet social constructs of crime but affect society can be assessed. These aspects can inflict harm on others, but as criminal law stands, it cannot objectively measure harm and victimization (Hillyard & Tombs, 2007).In addition, separating crime from the criminal justice system is difficult. The criminal justice system is also influenced by social and political inclinations of which such entities have influence. In this paper, I will utilize perspectives of critical criminology to assess the role of prisons and its effectiveness in contemporary US society.Critical criminology and contemporary US prison systemThere are different systems of justice in the United States based on profession, crime, corporate activities and religion. The problem with criminology in the United States is that it does not assess the effect of the systems of justice on the individuals it is supposed to police. The crimes that can cause great harm to the environment or the welfare of society are treated differently to individual crimes committed in inner cities. There are differing approaches as to how justice is approached. The criminal justice system, particularly the prison system, has certain disparities in relation to race, ethnicity, wealth and gender. The forms of crime, namely corporate, street, organized, political and white-collar crimes, have differing dynamics. However, they are not predisposed to race, ethnicity, association, subcultures, poverty and genetics, which are individual traits and traits that may be somewhat beyond the control of an individual (Young, 1985). These crimes are related to social variables such as profit, predatory actions and political struggle. These social variables may be linked to capitalism and the maintenance of a status quo. The prison system serves these agendas in one way or another. The statistics and criminological studies related to how data is collected is especially important as such information is interpreted by the public through various government apparatus, corporations and media sources. According to the International Association of Crime Analysts (IACA), there are four categories of crime analysis: crime intelligence, tactical crime, strategic crime and administrative crime analysis. Crime intelligence analysis examines the rate of repeat offenders, victimization, criminal history and social media use. Tactical crime analysis examines the rate of repeat incidents and crime patterns. Strategic crime analysis examines trends and crime hotspots. Finally, administrative crime analysis provides information on patrol staffing, cost-benefit and resource deployment (IACA, 2014). Apart from administrative crime analysis, most of these analyses are driven to assess potential crime and repeat criminal activity. This is geared towards street or traditional crime but does not address the other forms of crime. Hence, it is unsurprising that most convictions are related to these crimes and the media heavily reports on street crimes. These forms of analysis and data collection systems inaccurate in the models of human behavior it utilizes. Eyewitness accounts, body language analysis and subjective forensic analysis are prone to distortions (Benforado, 2015) that are catered towards a specific form of crime, which is street crime. As a result, the role of prison in the United States becomes primarily that of dealing with street or traditional crime. The people held responsible for such crimes are considered and portrayed as the worst members of society and deserving of harsh punishments. This can be seen with how the criminal justice system treats harm that can cause serious and multiple injury, and affect the welfare of members of society compared to how street or traditional crimes are prosecuted. Corporate crimes such as environmental endangerment, disregard for health and safety risks, illegal firing of striking workers and anticompetitive practices are usually settled in fines or out of court settlements. The coverage of these crimes in media is somewhat understated. On the other hand, street crimes are reported on extensively and carry sentences such as capital punishment or consecutive life sentence. In a study where participants were comparing violent street crimes and physically harmful white-collar crimes, most participants stated that they perceived the violent crime scenarios to be more serious (Michel, 2016). This is due to the difficulty of unraveling the entities involved in the crime compared to street crimes where the individual is likely the target. This inadvertently affects the efficacy of the prison system and how it is supposed to punish, and can be retraced to indicate that the role of power that certain entities have amassed to ensure crimes are defined and punished in ways that suit them. The prison system in addressing society’s needsThe inquiry arises as to why an organization and its leadership may have, for instance, led to the degradation of the water supply of a community are thought to be redeemable through the deterrent effect of large fines, and the same is not assumed of street crimes. It becomes critical to assess the role of prisons in addressing street crime, as corporate crime and white-collar crime are not effectively addressed in the prison system. The correctional system in the United States is designed for the purposes of retribution, rehabilitation, deterrence and incapacitation. These serve the primary purpose of punishment and a secondary purpose of reformation of a criminal. Some individuals encounter the prison system before a conviction, but for most, the end of sentencing marks the beginning of corrections. The encounter with the prison system is meant to bring conformation to society’s norms. There is no consensus among professionals as to which strategy is the most effective to bring about conformity. It does not hide the fact that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, at 726 persons per 100,000 citizens. Furthermore, the disparities in terms of race or ethnicity, income, gender and employment paint a sadder picture of the prison system. black and Hispanic people have a rate 11 times and 6 times greater than white offenders. Male offenders represented over 80 percent of inmates by 2010, but female offenders are growing at a higher rate than men (Christensen, 2008). This points towards a system of unfairness towards minority groups, male offenders and low income or unemployed individuals. Policies, such as the war on drugs and prohibition, disproportionately affected minority populations. In terms of political mileage, politicians project a “tough-on-crime” message to the public which gains public support. One study indicates that the level of violent crime and recidivism is perceived to be higher than it is by the public (Gest, 2001), and the belief is held that the criminal justice system is too lenient (Roberts & Stalans, 2000). The media sensationalism on levels of crime can be a factor in this and the ability of corporations and the government to affect public opinion has a direct effect on the composition of the prison, and the perception of individual who need to conform to societal norms. The efficacy of the prison systemCrime prevention efficacyThe crime prevention purpose of the prison system is two-fold. The first is to deter potential criminals and recidivism. The deterrence theory is based on a rationalistic view of crime, where the knowledge of harsh penalties for committing a crime can deter one from committing a crime. For corporate crime, this model does not work. For instance, Intel, a microprocessor manufacturing company, has had over fifteen litigious claims for antitrust violations (Network World, 2009), and are currently in court over faulty software issues. As for street crime, evidence relating to its effect is ambiguous and the rationalistic view of deterrence does not correspond with the probability that most individuals who commit crimes may not do it in a rational manner. The measures implemented to create a deterrent effect, including a harsh presentation of prison life, can be effective or ineffective depending on circumstances. In the case of deterrent effect for offenders who have been released and for repeat offenders, sentences are often increased in the hope that the prison system will provide a greater deterrent. The conclusion made was that longer sentences than the norm does not reduce recidivism. Mandatory minimum sentences or the three-strike-rule have little effect on recidivism. In this conclusion, it was noted that the possibility of apprehension, not the possibility of conviction, brings about the deterrent effect (Nagin, 2013). Therefore, effective policing has a greater deterrent effect than the prison system.The second purpose of crime prevention is to incapacitate the offenders. It is quite straightforward – individuals who have offended are physically incapable of committing the offence again because they are separated from the rest of society. One researcher indicates that a 1 percent increase in the prison population would result in a crime reduction of 0.3 percent (Spelman, 1994). However, this research does not factor in the phenomenon of replacement, where a drug dealer, for instance, is replaced by another drug dealer hence drug distribution does not reduce. It also does not acknowledge that the prison system has a varying impact on offenders. This variation is in terms of intensity and duration, that is if they become more vigorous in crime participation or reduce the vigorousness for the former, and if they take up crime immediately or later after their release. Moreover, there is the factor of co-offending, prone to juvenile offenders and the youth (Travis & Western, 2014). If one of the offenders is arrested, there is reason to believe that the offender who was not caught will continue their criminal activity. In this aspect of crime prevention, one cannot ascertain that the prison system has performed exceptionally despite the straightforward nature of the assumed effectiveness.Rehabilitation efficacyPrisons seek to conform deviant members of society either through punishment as described or through rehabilitation. Most of those involved in criminal activity are repeat offenders, which highlights the limited nature of rehabilitation effect of prison. Offender reentry into society requires that programs are in place to assist in conforming. The programs that are utilized differ in what they seek to address – some are community-based, others involve academic tutoring, some are therapeutic, behavioral or cognitive in nature, some involve financial assistance and economic opportunities, and others involve medication and surgical treatment (MacKenzie, 2006). The barriers that prevent rehabilitation include limited employment opportunities, lack of a support system, lack of healthcare and housing. Different models such as the risk-need-responsivity model (RNR) and cognitive-behavior therapy have successfully reduced recidivism and improve outcomes upon release (Travis & Western, 2014). Research indicates that programs that entail cognitive-behavioral therapy, drug treatment, academic programs and vocational training can reduce recidivism. However, there are few studies that show that outcomes for prisoners significantly improve due to prison work programs (MacKenzie, 2006).ConclusionThe effectiveness of rehabilitation of prison systems cannot be understated. However, on current examination of the United States prison system, the trend is moving towards incapacitation and deterrence. These methods maintain a status quo that politicians thrive on and has helped built profit-making organizations based on these models, as seen by the increase in number of privately-run prisons at state and local level. Racially coding social and political messages related to the prison system help maintain a control-oriented prison management system which continues a cycle of recidivism. The problem may lie in the attempt at social conformation for offenders instead of individual attention. From a critical criminology perspective, the powerful entities certainly play a role.ReferencesBenforado, A. (2015, June 13). 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