Prevention History of Corrections—Punishment or Rehabilitation? - Justice Model
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As crime increased in the late 1980s, and the community corrections model seemed unsuccessful, the pendulum once again swung the other way. Pressure began mounting against rehabilitation, indeterminate sentencing, probation, parole, and treatment programs. Some penologists advocated putting criminals behind bars for a determinate amount of time, noting that offenders should be kept off the streets so that they cannot commit more crimes. As a result, the federal government and a growing number of states introduced mandatory sentencing and life terms for habitual criminals (often called "three strikes" laws after a baseball analogy, meaning that after three convictions "you're out"). They also limited the use of probation, parole, and time off for good behavior.
As Michael Tonry and Joan Petersilia pointed out in their study Prisons Research at the Beginning of the 21st Century (Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice, 1999), "The rapid increase in the 1990s in the numbers of people confined in prisons and jails coincided with falling crime rates." However, experts differed as to why this decrease in crime occurred. Some reasoned that imprisoning more criminals naturally led to less crime in society, while others believed that new policing strategies and tactics—such as community policing and zero-tolerance—reduced crime.
The rising number of offenders on parole and in prisons and jails has taxed the system. Facilities have become overcrowded and states have had problems securing sufficiently large budgets to build new prisons and jails or to supply the needed treatment and educational programs.
Meanwhile, state and federal courts have put caps on how many prisoners each facility can hold and have told states that certain basic services are required. With determinate sentencing often eliminating parole, prisons have turned to a system called gain-time to prevent overcrowding and maintain control. Gain-time, or good time, allows prison officials to deduct a specified number of days from an offender's sentence for every month served without the inmate breaking any rules.