[Solved] alternatives to imprisonment essay

It has become common today to dismiss alternatives to imprisonment, but one must fully understand all the resources available before making a life changing conclusion. Common sense seems to dictate that policy-makers and administrators regard alternatives to imprisonment and seem to not actively try to find alternatives for the prisoners. With there being over nine million prisoners worldwide and prisons dealing with severe overcrowding, it is important to understand alternatives to imprisonment. Whereas they should imprison many crimes committed, there are many alternatives to imprisonment available for lower scale crimes such as, rehabilitation, mental illness programs and community service programs.

One implication of alternatives to imprisonment is that alternatives may be more effective. Imprisonment keeps a person under secure control, leaving a prisoner dealing with several social objectives. The goal is to decrease prison populations and increase use of alternatives focusing on rehabilitation. Discussing alternatives of imprisonment, most of us will agree that prison is the best option. Where this argument usually concludes; however, is on the question of what the best way to rehabilitate a criminal is. Whereas some are convinced that those who commit a crime will commit again, others maintain that rehabilitation is possible. I believe they should punish a person who commits a crime, I also believe there are more beneficial ways to rehabilitate a person instead of a prison sentence.

Losing an individual’s liberty that results from imprisonment is inevitable, imprisonment also impinges several other human rights. Prisoners are often deprived of basic amenities such as being underfed, poorly clothed, vulnerable to diseases, and given poor medical treatment. Majority of prisoners find it difficult to stay in contact with their friends and family and most live in fear; risking their own life day to day. “Implementing effective alternatives to imprisonment will reduce overcrowding and make it easier to manage prisons in a way that will allow states to meet their basic obligations to the prisoners in their care.” (United Nations Publication, 2007, pp.4)

Another way to gain a perspective of alternatives to imprisonment is to gain an understanding of cost. “The cost of imprisonment is hard to calculate, but the best estimates are in the region of 62.5 billion per year using 1997 statistics.” (United Nations Publication, 2007, pp.4) Since this statistic was noted so long ago, the cost of imprisonment has exploded over the years. Direct costs for prisoners include housing, feeding, and caring for each prisoner. An average cost of a prisoner is eight hundred dollars a month, and $19,000 per prisoner for construction costs in a high security facility.

It is vital for policy-makers to inspect who is being held in prison, why they are there, and for how long they are being detained. Some prisoners are serving sentences for a petty or non-violent offence, while others are awaiting trial for a lengthy period. “Alternatives to imprisonment offer a variety of strategies for dealing appropriately with such persons that do not involve imprisonment at all. Alternatives should therefore be the primary point of departure in order to avoid over-reliance on imprisonment.” (United Nations Publication, 2007, pp.6)

Alternatives to imprisonment are an essential part of all levels and stages of the criminal justice system. In a strategy to develop alternatives legislators, judicial officers, lawyers, and administrators all must play a role and work together. If this can be accomplished, a person who commits a crime will have a better outlook on the future.

“A careful examination of each case is necessary to determine whether a prison sentence is required and where imprisonment is considered to be necessary, to impose the minimum period of imprisonment that meets the objectives of sentencing.” (United Nations Publication, 2007, pp.25) For example, during sentencing an offender who spent time in pre-trial detention would receive a shorter sentence once time already served was calculated. Some offenders spend months to years in pre-trail detention while waiting for their day in court.

Like imprisonment, there are other forms of punishment that are not cruel, inhuman, or degrading these include, rehabilitation, mental illness programs and community services programs. A court would require how many hours of community service or how long an offender must attend a rehab or be enrolled in a mental illness program along with what fines must be paid. The court would communicate what requirements an offender must meet.

“The Tokyo rule lists a wide range of dispositions other than imprisonment for the sentencing stage and which, if clearly defined and properly implemented, have an acceptable punitive element:” (United Nations Publications, 2007 pp.28)

  1. “Verbal sanctions, such as admonition, reprimand and warning,”
  2. “Conditional discharge,”
  3. “Status penalties,”
  4.  “Economic sanctions and monetary penalties, such as fine and day-fine,”
  5. “Confiscation or an expropriation order,”
  6. “Restitution to the victim or a compensation order,”
  7. “Probation and judicial supervision,”
  8. “A community service order,”
  9. “Referral to an attendance center,”
  10. “House arrest,”
  11. “Some combination of the measures listed above,” (United Nations Publication, 2007 pp.28)

This list of alternative sentencing dispositions allow an offender additionally options instead of imprisonment that are readily available and accessible.

Among, the different alternatives to imprisonment that most common alternative is probation. “Offenders who are put on probation are typically required to adhere to a number of conditions of probation.” (Nolo.com 2013)

  1. “Obey all laws (even petty laws like jaywalking have been known to land a probationer back in jail.)”
  2. “Abide by any court orders, such as an order to pay a fine or restitution.”
  3. “Report regularly to the probation officer.”
  4.  “Report any change of employment or address to the probation officer.”
  5. “Abstain from the excessive use of alcohol or the use of any drugs.”
  6.  “Submit to regular alcohol or drug testing.”
  7. “Refrain from travel outside of the jurisdiction without prior permission of the probation officer.”
  8.  “Avoid certain people and places.” (Nolo.com 2013)

An offender who is placed on probation who follows the instructions of their probation officer have shown to have great success. In additional to probation they may require an offender to perform community service, pay a fine, or restitution. They see community service as paying a debt to a community for having committed an offense, usually an offender can choose where they would like to perform this service. Fines are a common punishment for first-time offenders or low-level crimes, they pay fines to the state or local government, the judge on a case would decide the required amount of a fine. Restitution is fines paid by the defendant to the victim, it may require offenders to return or replace stolen or damaged property. “Typically, the defendant will be ordered to pay restitution as just one part of the sentence, in addition to prison, community service, and/or probation.” (Nolo, 2013)

Another alternative to imprisonment is mental illness programs. “Research indicates that incarcerated adults with a mental illness experience extreme barriers to success during community re-entry, which can lead to re-incarceration, homelessness, and poverty.” (McCauley,2017) Based on this research additional programs should be implemented and evaluated in justice systems to increase resource access for imprisoned adults with a mental illness. The most common mental illness among offenders is depression which can lead to bipolar disorder, these illnesses are preventable with the right treatment program if available.

“The National Institute of Justice reports that over 75% of released inmates are re-incarcerated within five years of discharge from prison; this high reoffending rate is due to many U.S. prisons focusing on punishment, rather than on rehabilitation.” (Reich, 2017) More than a quarter of state prisons do not offer alcohol and drug dependency, counseling, and awareness programs to prisoners. “Since educational, vocational, and drug rehabilitation programs decrease the likelihood that inmates will re-offend, they also allow ex-convicts to contribute to society, boosting the economy.” (Reich, 2017) In additional to educational programs offered, job training programs in prison have proven to be effective in reducing the re-offending rate. Work release programs allow prisoners to work in the community as they approach their release date and adapt to their community once again. Drug and alcohol programs where available have shown to help offenders rebuild their lives, decreasing the chance they will re-offend.

“Our justice system looks at crime primarily as an offense against the state, which means the state, through lawyers and judges, takes the lead in deciding what should happen in light of the offense. Often, the victim has no say in their future outcome. Restorative justice, on the other hand, says that after a crime has occurred, the goal is reconciliation and restoration, which isn’t possible without the offender and the victim actually interacting.” (Lee, 2018)

To often offenders are locked away in a facility and forgotten about. With all the resources available to those incarcerated, we need to focus on rehabilitating these individuals and decreasing the prison population. Alternatives to imprisonment have proven to be effective and proven to lower the re-offending rate. People are capable of change when offered the right tools and resources, we must believe it’s possible.


  1. “Alternatives to Imprisonment – United Nations Office on …” United Nations Office on drugs and crime, United Nations Publications, 2007, www.unodc.org/documents/justice-and-prison-reform/crimeprevention/Handbook_of_basic_principles_and_promising_practices_on_Alternatives_to_Imprisonment.pdf.
  2. Lee, M. (2018). Doing the crime without doing the time, 1-3. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.arbor.idm.oclc.org/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=0&[email protected]
  3. Nolo. “Sentencing Alternatives: Prison, probation, fines, and community service.” Www.nolo.com, Nolo, 14 Nov. 2013, www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/sentencing-alternatives-prison-probation-fines-30294.html.
  4. CJ 110 – What Are the Four Modern Sentencing Options? Under What Circumstances Might Each Be Appropriate, for Example? AllBestEssays.com. Retrieved 11, 2016, from https://www.allbestessays.com/essay/Cj-110-What-Are-the-Four-Modern/63996.html
  5. McCauley, E. (2017). Navigating the disability determination process from the perspective of incarcerated adults with serious mental illnesses. 1-12. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.arbor.idm.oclc.org/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=0&[email protected]
  6. Reich, J. (2017, August 17). The economic impact of prison rehabilitation programs. Retrieved from https://publicpolicy.wharton.upenn.edu/live/news/2059-the-economic-impact-of-prison-rehabilitation/for-students/blog/news.php

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