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Article

Lynnea Davis, P. J. Houston, and Danielle S. Rudes

Probation officers (POs) are perhaps the correctional workers with the greatest reach, since more people are under probation supervision relative to every other correctional branch (i.e., jail, prison, and parole). The individuals under probation supervision and the community-at-large depend on POs to do their job well. However, POs have a job that requires them to make numerous decisions within an organization with conflicting goals and ambiguous roles, often with great discretionary power and little oversight. This relatively autonomous discretionary power often produces racial disparities in probation outcomes, the misuse of evidence-based tools such as risk and needs assessments, and ultimately the inability of probation organizations to effectuate change. These effects have negative consequences for probation organizations, probationers, and POs themselves. Participatory management produces an organizing framework that calls for hierarchical organizations to take a balanced approach to decision-making by increasing information sharing throughout the organizational hierarchy. This organizational structure carries the potential to remedy these aforementioned problems. By increasing oversight and accountability for POs via participatory management, POs’ discretionary power may be managed without limiting decision-making. Participatory management may create additional benefits such as increasing the efficiency of probation organizations, improving client outcomes for probationers, and increasing occupational satisfaction for POs. There are numerous potential threats to participatory management and several solutions for overcoming them. The main solution calls on probation agencies to make participatory management as effective as possible by constructing an equal balance between a loosely and tightly coupled organizational implementation of policies and practices.

Article

Benjamin J. Mackey and Danielle S. Rudes

Parole in the United States serves as both a mechanism of early release from incarceration, as well as the period of supervision that may follow release, early or otherwise. Attached to the concept of parole, writ large, are multiple, seemingly irreconcilable perspectives regarding its purpose. Yet, evidence exists to suggest that all these perspectives are simultaneously reflected in the microlevel discretionary actions of parole practitioners and the macrolevel policies of the parole system. This is suggestive of a complex interplay between the individual discretion exercised by parole practitioners and the formalized legal reforms that, in some cases, attempt to limit such discretion. The three stages of parole—release, supervision, and revocation—explicate how practitioners use their discretion to resist or subvert reforms designed to curtail that discretion. Ultimately, these forms of resistance have both practical and theoretical implications for the future of parole and policies aimed at its reform.

Article

Justin Berk, Ann Ding, and Josiah Rich

Since 1976, incarcerated individuals in the United States have an established right to healthcare. This has created a national system charged with addressing the unique challenges of healthcare delivery in jails and prisons. As incarcerated populations are often excluded from large research studies, evidence-based practices must often be extrapolated from community data. There is a wide variation in care delivery across institutions nationwide. Challenges in correctional settings include a “dual loyalty” to patients’ health and facility security and the toxic effects of disciplinary practices including solitary confinement, violence, communicable disease control, an aging population, discharge planning for community reentry, and a high prevalence of substance use disorder and mental health disease. Although incarceration may offer a unique opportunity to address chronic health issues of a difficult-to-reach population, the net health effects in the United States seem to be mostly negative. Mass incarceration in the United States has led to significant health consequences at the individual, family, and community levels and has exacerbated health, socioeconomic, and racial disparities. As most incarcerated individuals return to the community, healthcare delivery during incarceration plays a substantial role in the health of communities at all levels.

Article

Tina Maschi, Keith Morgen, Annette Hintenach, and Adriana Kaye

There has been a growing awareness among academic and professional communities, as well as the general public, of the global rise in the number of aging prisoners across the world. Both the scholarly literature and social media have documented the high human, social, and economic costs of housing older adults with complex physical, mental health, legal, and social needs. It is imperative to explore the crisis and select correctional policies and practices that have contributed to the rise in the aging and the seriously and terminally ill populations in global prisons. A comparative framing and analysis across the globe show how some countries, such as the United States, have a higher per capita rate of incarcerating older adults in prisons compared to other countries, such as Northern Ireland. Variations in profiles and manifestations of personal and social conditions affect pathways to prison for some older adults. Explanatory perspectives describe why some individuals are at an increased risk of growing old in prison compared to other individuals. Indigeneity, globalization, race and ethnicity, power and inequality, and processes of development and underdevelopment have affected the growth of the aging prison population. Promising practices have the potential to disengage social mechanisms that have contributed to the mass incarceration of the elderly and engage a more compassionate approach to crime and punishment for people of all ages, their families, and communities.

Article

R.V. Gundur

Prison gangs are often formally referred to as “security threat groups” or “disruptive groups.” Compared to street gangs, they are understudied criminal organizations. As is the case with many organized criminal groups, official definitions of prison gangs tend to be broad, typically defining one as any group of three or more people who engage in disruptive behavior in a carceral setting. Many prison gangs, however, have other, distinct characteristics, such as having formed or matured in adult prisons, being composed primarily of adults, having a clear organizational structure that allows the gang to persist, and having a presence both in and out of prison. Research on prison gangs has been sporadic and focuses primarily, though not exclusively, on the United States. The first studies of inmate life occurred in the 1940s and 1950s, and in prisons that did not have modern incarnations of prison gangs. Until the 1980s, only a few academics described the existence of prison gangs or, their precursor, cliques. The 1980s and early 1990s saw the first studies of prison gangs, notably Camp and Camp’s historical study of prison gangs within the United States from the 1950s to the 1980s and Fong and Buentello’s work that documented the foundation and evolution of prison gangs in the Texas prison system in the 1980s. These studies marked some of the first, and last, significant, systematic studies of prison gangs until the new century. The 21st century brought renewed attention to security threat groups, as scholars from a variety of disciplines, including sociology, criminology, and economics, engaged in the study of prison society and how inmate groups influence it. Some of these scholars introduced new methodologies to the study of prison gangs, thereby significantly increasing the available knowledge on these groups. Research on prison gangs has expanded to consider four broad categories: defining prison gangs and describing their formation and evolution; evaluating prison gangs’ organizational structure and governance in carceral and free settings; assessing the role of prison gangs on reoffending; and gauging how to control prison gangs both in and out of prison.

Article

Elise Sargeant, Julie Barkworth, and Natasha S. Madon

Fairness and equity are key concerns in modern liberal democracies. In step with this general trend, academics and practitioners have long been concerned with the fairness of procedures utilized by the criminal justice system. Definitions vary, but procedural justice is loosely defined as fair treatment and fair decision-making by authorities. In the criminal justice system, the procedural justice of authorities such as police officers, judicial officers, and correctional officers is evaluated by members of the public. Procedural justice in the criminal justice system is viewed as an end in and of itself, but it is also an opportunity to yield various outcomes including legitimacy, public compliance with the law, cooperation with criminal justice officials, and satisfaction with criminal justice proceedings and outcomes.

Article

In the 21st century, an unprecedented rise in the visibility of and social acceptance for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people has been accompanied by exponential growth in scholarship on LGBT people generally and their experiences in diverse communities and institutional contexts in the United States and around the globe. A growing body of literature draws on first-person accounts, qualitative analyses, and statistical assessments to understand how and why LGBT people end up in prisons and other types of lock-up facilities, as well as how they experience being imprisoned and the collateral consequences of those experiences. Scholarship in this body of work focuses on (a) the range of abuses inflicted on LGBT prisoners by other prisoners and state officials alike, including mistreatment now widely recognized as human rights violations; (b) the variety of ways LGBT people are managed by prison officials, in the first instance whether their housing arrangements in prison are integrationist, segregationist, and/or some combination of both, including the temporary and permanent isolation of LGBT prisoners; and (c) the range of types of political mobilization that expose the status quo as unacceptable, define, and document the treatment of LGBT people behind bars as human rights violations, demand change, and advocate new policies and practices related to the carceral state’s treatment of LGBT people in the United States and across the globe. The study of LGBT people in prisons and other detention facilities is compatible with larger calls for the inclusion of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in criminology and criminal justice research by advancing theoretical and empirical understandings of LGBT populations as they interact with the criminal justice system, and by incorporating this knowledge into broader criminological conversations.

Article

Jerry Cederblom

Numerous philosophical theories purport to justify a system of legal punishment. It is doubtful, however, that any of them successfully answer these three questions: Why punish? Whom to punish? How much to punish? Straightforward retributive theories, which justify punishment by looking back at the wrongful harm done by an offender, don’t adequately answer the question of why the offender should be harmed in return for harm done. More sophisticated retributive theories construe punishment as equalizing an unfair advantage taken by an offender. Such theories have difficulty with the question of how much to punish. Consent theories view offenders as willing punishment onto themselves by their voluntary acts. The various versions of this theory all fail to answer one or more of the three questions: why, whom, and how much. Rights forfeiture theories give a question-begging answer to the “why” question and don’t answer the question of how much. Consequentialist theories, which justify punishment by looking forward to results such as deterrence and incapacitation, have difficulties with whom to punish and how much. Arguably, punishing an innocent person who is believed to be guilty could deter potential offenders, and a serious offense might be deterred by a less severe punishment than a minor offense. Some philosophers see insurmountable problems for strictly backward-looking theories that appeal to guilt of the offender and for strictly forward-looking theories that appeal to future consequences. The solution, then, could be a theory that appeals to future results to provide a reason for punishing, but looks back at harm done by the offender to answer the question of whom to punish and how much. However, without a unifying rationale for taking these different approaches to these particular issues, such a mixed theory would be ad hoc if not incoherent. In recent decades, philosophers have offered several approaches that might avoid the pitfalls described above by providing a unified rationale for punishment that is both backward and forward looking. Self-defense theories hold that it is rational and justifiable for the state to threaten punishment in order to defend citizens against offenses. They then move by various strategies from the justifiability of the threat to the justifiability of punishment. Forced choice theories justify punishment as a way of distributing necessary harm to the guilty rather than the innocent. Censure theories attempt to justify punishment as the state’s means of expressing disapproval of offenses against the law. Each of these theories faces difficulties, but proponents might judge that even though they haven’t yet been able to adequately state the justification of punishment, their theory is on the right track. Others view the difficulties faced by all theories and boldly conclude that punishment is not justifiable. There is little support for rehabilitation as an alternative to punishment. The practices associated with restorative justice, although not directly aimed at punishment, typically involve punishment, so they still require a justification for punishment. Whether a system of restitution could take the place of a system of punishment is problematic. The situation is made even more troublesome by the fact that the theories that have been surveyed aim to justify punishment in a society with a just political structure and laws. Even if such a theory succeeds, it is far from clear that it would justify punishment in a society where many of those who are harmed by punishment have also been victims of injustice.

Article

Positive criminology is an innovative perspective that underlies existing theories and models emphasizing the positive forces that influence and assist individuals at risk and offenders in their recovery process. The theories and models included in positive criminology (e.g., peacemaking criminology, social acceptance, crime desistance, restorative justice) are not new; its novelty lies in their inclusion in a unique and distinct conceptualization. This has led to a shift in discourse and research in criminology, which goes beyond focusing on risk and criminogenic factors while focusing on the positive factors and strengths that help individuals to rehabilitate and successfully integrate into the community. Studies and practices developed over the past decade have confirmed and reinforced the assumptions of the positive criminology perspective. Despite its specific limitations, positive criminology provides a promising platform for further developments and innovations in research in theory (e.g., positive victimology, spiritual criminology) and in practice (e.g., restorative justice, problem-solving courts, community policing).

Article

Kathryn L. Schwaeble and Jody Sundt

The United States is unique in its reliance on incarceration. In 2018 the United States had the largest prison population in the world—more than 2.1 million people—and incarcerated 655 per 100,000 residents, the highest incarceration rate in the world. The U.S. public also holds more punitive attitudes in comparison to citizens of other Western, developed countries. For example, when presented with the same description about a hypothetical criminal event, Americans consistently prefer longer sentences compared to residents of other countries. Attitudes about the death penalty are also instructive. Although international support for the death penalty has declined dramatically over time, the majority of Americans are still in favor of capital punishment for certain crimes. In comparison, Great Britain abolished the death penalty in 1965, and only 45% of its citizens continue to support capital punishment. This raises an important question: Can understanding the will of the public help explain how governments respond to crime? The answer to this question is more complicated than expected upon first consideration. The United States generally starts from a more punitive stance than other countries, in part because it experiences more violent crime but also because Americans hold different moral and cultural views about crime and punishment. U.S. public officials, including lawmakers, judges, and prosecutors, are responsive to trends in public attitudes. When the public mood became more punitive during the 1990s, for example, U.S. states universally increased the length of prison sentences and expanded the number of behaviors punishable by incarceration. Similarly, the public mood moderated in the United States toward the end of the 2000s, and states began reducing their prison populations and supporting sentencing reform. It is also true, however, that public officials overestimate how punitive the public is while citizens underestimate how harsh the justice system is. Moreover, the public supports alternatives to tough sentences including prevention, treatment, and alternatives to incarceration, particularly for juveniles and nonviolent offenders. Thus public opinion about punishment is multifaceted and complex, necessitating the exploration of many factors to understand it. Looking at public attitudes about punishment over time, across culture and societies, and in a variety of ways can help explain why social responses to crime change and why some people or groups of people are more punitive than others. Two ideas are helpful in organizing motivations for punishment. First, public support for punishment may be motivated by rational, instrumental interests about how best to protect public safety. Public concern about crime is a particularly important influence on trends in the public mood, but fear of crime and victimization are inconsistently related to how individuals feel about punishment. Second, attitudes about punishment are tied to expressive desires. Attitudes are influenced by culture and moral beliefs about how to respond to harm and violations of the law. Thus attitudes about punishment are relevant in understanding how the public thinks about the problem of crime, as how people think and feel about crime influences what they think and feel should be done about it.