Criminal Justice Paper on Trends toward More Alternatives to Incarceration

Trends toward More Alternatives to Incarceration

The criminal justice department has for years been limited to employing incarceration as the only or primary means for punishing criminality. Consequently, this has led to overpopulated prisons, which are ineffective in rehabilitating criminal behavior. According to Berman and Dar (2013), from 1973 to 2009, the federal as well as state prison population went up from about 200,000 to 1.5 million individuals. Currently, the United States penal population of over 2.2 million individuals is the largest globally; consequently, the management, maintenance, as well as administration of prisons has been hampered significantly (Moser & Kalton, 2017). The emergence of social vices such as same-sex rape within the correctional facilities increased gang activity that has led to repeat offenders when individuals are released back to the population, and outbreaks of diseases have led to questions of alternatives to incarceration. Other forms of punishment against criminal behavior have been available to the department of justice; however, with overpopulated prisons clearly there is a need for change a factor that is articulated in this manuscript.

Over the last decade, it has become more expensive to incarcerate an individual. Currently, the fee to cover the average cost of incarceration for Federal inmates in Fiscal Year 2018 was $ 34,704.12 leading to a total cost of over 76 billion a year. Alternatives incarcerations such as conditional and educational sentencing, community service, house arrest, rehabilitation, restitution, and boot camps are substantially cheaper to run. Additionally, they offer a reduced number of repeat offenders. According to Frana and Schroeder (2012), house arrest costs are estimated to be 75% cheaper than incarceration as the individual and not the authority meet most of the resources spent on food and security. Additionally, other alternatives such as community service have a positive economic return reducing state management costs when working on social projects such as cleaning and painting. With such reduced costs, it is clear that the U.S justice department should increase its commitment to alternatives to incarceration.


As earlier aforementioned, the current prison system has a poor return when it comes to rehabilitation.  According to Rothman (2017), about 55% of the currently housed prisoners in the U.S Department of Corrections are repeat offenders. Imprisonment for years has proved not to be an effective deterrent to criminal behavior considering the increase of gang activity behind bars. Alternatives such as conditional and educational sentences are rooted in rehabilitating an individual from a personal and professional perspective. The likeliness of an ex-convict committing a crime after attending anger management classes, psychological evaluation, or getting a college degree is lower than those of an individual locked in solitary confinement. In summation, alternative options of behavior correction and rehabilitation such as conditional and educational sentences have a higher chance of changing delinquency than locking an individual behind bars.

The Unites States hosts the highest number of prisoners globally and the situation is becoming uncontrollable. With 2.2 million individuals behind bars managing, maintaining, and improving the correctional department has become a complex issue. Vices such as same sex rape, riots, as well as other gang related issues have become a hallmark of the current U.S prisons. It is for this reason that alternatives such as conditional and educational sentencing, community service, house arrest, rehabilitation, restitution, and boot camps have provided better solutions. The data presented highlight a reduction of incarceration fee as well as improved rehabilitation rates, which are the pillars of criminal rehabilitation.


Berman, G., & Dar, A. (2013). Prison population statistics. London: House of Commons Library.

Frana, J. F., & Schroeder, R. D. (2012). Alternatives to incarceration. Justice Policy Journal5(2), 1-32.

Moser, C. A., & Kalton, G. (2017). Survey methods in social investigation. Routledge.

Rothman, D. J. (2017). Conscience and convenience: The asylum and its alternatives in progressive America. Routledge.