Today our criminal justice system has a multitude of options when dealing with those who are convicted of offenses; fines, probation, community service, short term sentences in jail or longer sentences in a variety of different level prisons and the ultimate punishment is still death. Our goals are clear and direct, stop the behavior, make restitution, teach new skills and for many rehabilitate through therapy, drug and/or alcohol counseling. Unfortunately there are those that are deemed unredeemable and unfit to ever return to society and they are either confined in prison until their natural death or sentenced to die by the order of the state or government.
Excluding a death sentence, being given a sentence to prison is our harshest punishment. Due to overcrowding, the “community” and lack of personal control it’s a dangerous place to be. Sexual and physical assault is common, isolation is a mental challenge and the overall environment is an emotional nightmare. Prison is a very unhealthy place for anyone but even more of a detriment to our most vulnerable members of prison society; youth offenders, those with low IQ’s and mental retardation. Life without parole is in essence negating a person from existence without actually killing the individual. It is considered a mercy to be given life with the possibility of parole but those like Charles Mason and Diane Downs will most likely never be granted their freedom.
Individuals who are sentenced to one to twenty years of confinement are candidates for what I refer to as rehabilitative confinement; what this means is while incarcerated they have the opportunity for education and to learn job skills that can improve their lot in life once they are released. Offered group and/or individual counseling and hopefully if needed drug or alcohol counseling, these members of our prison system have the most opportunity to improve while they are fulfilling their sentence of punishment. Once released most will spend a period of time on parole being monitored and helped with getting acclimated to normal life.
Those sentenced to one day to eleven months in a county or local jail may participate in work release programs, get their GED or high school diploma, benefit from short term counseling or be given a split sentence meaning they have restricted freedoms during the week and must report for weekend lock up. These individuals may also be placed on probation or parole at the end of their sentence.
Those sentenced to house arrest are considered none flight risks and non-violent. They must meet conditions set such as calling in to report or being home to receive a call on a land line, wearing a tether that automatically sends a signal when leaving the confinement area. The offender may be allowed to leave the confinement area for work or school or they may be under the restriction of a curfew. This is in my opinion the lightest of confinement sentences one can receive.