The United States’ Correctional Systems: Criminal Punishments

Subject: Law
Pages: 5
Words: 1182
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: College


Human beings differ from animals since they have sets of laws that govern their behavior. Animals are primitive creatures since they are controlled by their impulses and immediate needs. Even though most animals are perceived to have a higher intelligence level than others they are all governed by crude laws (Seiter 2011). Human beings are governed by democratic processes that apply laws to regulate their behavior. This essay discusses criminal punishments within the United States’ correctional systems.


A crime is any act that contravenes the laws set by a state. These laws are universally applied to all citizens of a state and everybody is supposed to respect them despite their religious, traditional or political affiliations. These laws originate from traditions and religions and are formulated through democratic processes. Usually, civilians elect their representatives to the national assembly and give them the mandate to legislate, amend or delete laws.

Principle Objectives of Punishments

Correctional facilities protect the public against disgruntled people who like causing trouble to others. When criminals are arrested and prosecuted they are sentenced to serve various jail terms and this keeps them out of contact with the public (Williams 2012). When criminals are allowed to do their activities without being arrested they expose the community to tensions that hinder their daily activities.

In addition, correctional facilities struggle to deter other people from committing crimes by sentencing criminals to jail. This is a warning to any person who thinks or plans to engage in criminal activities. Nobody wishes to step on hot metal after seeing another person suffering burns from the same experience (Seiter 2011). Therefore, criminal punishments involve deterrence activities to ensure the society obeys the law. Similarly, criminals refrain from committing other crimes after experiencing prison life.

Lastly, correctional facilities rehabilitate criminals and make them noble people in society. The society wishes to see everybody participate in communal development and other helpful activities. Therefore, anyone who tries to divert from this noble course is guided to follow the correct path through punishments (Williams 2012). Criminals change their behavior after serving prison sentences and when they are released they are rehabilitated and ready to interact with the rest of the population. Correctional facilities prepare criminals to be accepted back to the society and live with others in harmony.

Sentencing and the State and Federal Correctional Systems

Once a crime has been committed the police department conducts investigations to collect sufficient evidence to arrest and also present the criminal before a court of law. The police together with the prosecution team must provide sufficient evidence that links the suspect with the alleged crimes (Seiter 2011). Judges and magistrates are entitled to listen to the accused and complainant before passing a judgment and sometimes the hearings may be postponed until when there is enough evidence to proceed or drop the case.

When hearings are complete and all sides have presented their cases the judge or a bench of judges decides on the appropriate step to take. This may be sentencing the suspect upon conviction, releasing the victim due to lack of enough evidence or referring the case to a higher authority. When the suspect is found guilty the judge orders the suspect to be sentenced to a jail term or pay fines (Williams 2012). The jail term or fine paid by the criminal is determined by the crime committed.

There is a link between the state and a federal correctional system in terms of sentences given to criminals. First, the state may sentence criminals to an indeterminate or determinate sentence. The first option refers to sentencing that has the maximum and minimum jail sentences. Once the convict has served the minimum time in prison a parole board may advise the correctional facility to release the prisoner. On the other hand, the court may decide to sentence a prisoner to serve a determinate prison term. This means the prisoner must serve several years or months in prison before being released. In this case, there is no parole and the sentence term must be fully served before the prisoner is set free.

However, in the indeterminate sentence it is not a must for a prisoner to be released during the parole period due to several reasons (Seiter 2011). The parole board investigates the conduct and cooperation of prisoners among other factors before recommending their release. Therefore, not all criminals serving indeterminate terms must be released during paroles.

The Effects of Sentencing on the State and Federal Correction Systems

Correctional systems rely on court proceedings that determine the number and time criminals will serve in jail. These facilities have a maximum number of inmates it can handle and beyond this it will expose human beings to risks. Criminals are human beings and are entitled to their rights just like any other person. However, the main right denied to criminals is freedom of movement and association with the public but this depends with the sentence given by the courts.

Occasionally, these facilities admit a high number of criminals and this means that they strain their ability to handle this influx. Therefore, they are forced to contact parole boards and advise them to release petty offenders or put them under house arrests.

Moreover, these facilities are meant to rehabilitate and correct criminals. Therefore, criminals should be given appropriate and correct sentences for these institutions to offer correct services. For instance, a drug addict cannot be sentenced or given the same punishments like an armed robber or murderer.


The common types of sentencing include indeterminate and determinate. The first sentence involves flexible jail sentences while the second one involves fixed sentences. For instance, when a criminal is sentenced to ten or two years in jail the individual will not be released until when the criminal has served the sentence (Seiter 2011). On the other hand, indeterminate sentencing refers to sentences that have a maximum and minimum number of years or months a criminal should serve. However, in this case a criminal can be released by the parole board after serving the minimum jail term. It should be noted that it is not a must for a criminal serving indeterminate jail term to be released on parole. The board considers a lot of factors before recommending who should be released.

Determinate sentencing is an appropriate approach since the criminal serves the whole jail term. The person cannot wish to commit a crime once he is out of jail. Indeterminate sentencing makes criminals believe that even if they commit crimes they will be paroled out of jail. Therefore, determinate sentencing is the most appropriate since it deters criminals from engaging in criminal activities.


The main purpose of criminal punishment is to make the culprit understand that the crime committed is against the laws of the land. Therefore, anyone breaking the law is punished to ensure they conform and obey all policies set by their states. In addition, people cannot be left to do what they wish since this will breed lawlessness and anarchy. Anyone going against the state’s expectation must face the consequences of their actions.


Seiter, R. (2011). Corrections: An introduction. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Williams, O. (2012). Federal Crimes: Sentencing, Supervised Release and Restitution. Law, Crime and Law Enforcement: Criminal Justice, Law Enforcement and Corrections. New York: Nova Science Publishers.