The Goals of Corrections: Perspectives from the Line


Four different goals of corrections are commonly espoused: retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation. Each of these goals has received varied levels of public and professional support over time. In an effort to assess the level of professional support for these goals, a survey was administered to staff in three prisons, two jails, and a jail academy in a rural mountain state. The results indicate that jail and prison staff are more likely than not to perceive the primary goal of corrections as incapacitation. Respondents generally ranked incapacitation first, followed by deterrence, rehabilitation, and retribution. Age, years of service, military background, and facility type (prison or jail) were significant predictors of staff orientation toward rehabilitation. For jail staff, only gender was related to a rehabilitation orientation. For prison staff, only age and years of service were related to a rehabilitation orientation. The authors conclude that role perceptions are colored by a variety of factors, including age, gender, years of service, facility type, and prior military service.

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Criminal Justice Review