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Societal Protection

Societal Protection

Author: Paul Hannan
Description:

Examine societal protection as a specific function of punishment.

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Tutorial

Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

Video Transcription

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Welcome to this episode of Sociology Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on societal protection. As always, don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind, or even fast forward to make sure you get the most out of this tutorial.

So societal protection is today's topic. And what it really is, it's pretty easy to actually see the connection between the words and what it stands for, is it's, well, protecting society from stuff. And in this case, it's protecting society by removing the offender from society. And there's different ways you can take offenders out of society, and we're going to look at, today, how you can take those out of society and kind of the tradeoffs of the different types.

Now one interesting note maybe when you look at, really globally, but especially in the United States, we have multiple ways of protecting society through societal protection. But we have a really high rate of criminal recidivism. And that is just that people that committed a crime will later commit another crime.

So if you were originally convicted of something, and then you committed an offense later, that is what that means. And we have a really high rate of it, and so as we go through these concepts today, you can maybe be thinking critically about how these different ways that we try to protect society by removing offenders maybe don't necessarily lend themselves to stopping reoffenders.

I like to break it down into three real ways that-- three different types of societal protection-- prison, community-based corrections, and the death penalty. So prison is just a place where you take them out of society, you put them behind walls, and they're physically confined in a jail. Community-based corrections are programs that they happen within society rather than behind prison walls. I'm going to go through some specific examples of that and break down the different types of community-based correction.

But the idea is that you are placing them in a program that is not 100% disconnected from society. It's actually within the regular part society, but they have extra restrictions on them. And the last way that our society uses societal protection is the death penalty, and that's permanently removing someone from society because you're killing them. They're removed.

So let's look at community-based corrections. Community-based corrections, again, are when you take someone and you're protecting them from society by removing them, but you're not fully removing them from society. Instead, you're placing them within a community. In that community, there are some barriers that have that are allowing them to be a little bit more part of society, even though they are under supervision. And there's three different types of community-based corrections on the screen here that you can see.

The first one is probation. So the offenders remain in the community under supervision. Probation is something you might receive if it's your first offense or if it's a small offense. Rather than sending you to jail, you'll get probation, you have certain rules you have to follow, and then you'll have a probation officer who will check in on you and make sure that you're following those rules. Maybe it's curfew. Maybe it's consumption of alcohol. There might be different rules you have to follow, but that's probation.

Another, maybe harsher you could even say, type of community-based correction is shock probation. Now in a shock probation, they still have probation, but they get sent to a jail briefly right at the start of their sentence and so that's where the term "shock" comes. Because you kind of shock the and say, look it, this is the option for you. You can be in jail, and you can have this really difficult life here in jail or you can be on operation. Wouldn't you rather be a part of society? Wouldn't you rather not be a criminal? So that's shock probation.

And the third type of community-based correction is parole. Now parole actually happens at the end of a term for a jail sentence. In that case, someone who committed a crime is then released to serve the rest of their sentence in the community. So if you've committed a crime and 15 years into your 20-year sentence, you've been an upstanding citizen, you go to a parole meeting and you talk it over with a panel, and they, say, OK, you know what? You're a changed person. We're going to let you-- end of your term that you would've spent in prison behind bars, and so I'm going to let you do that in the community under the supervision of a parole officer.

So this is really a gray zone. So as it says there at the bottom, these scales are only an initial illustration so that I can talk about the tradeoffs. I'm not trying to say that things are for sure set where I put them here. This is kind of my interpretation, but I think it helps get at some of the gray zone and some of what really is interesting for sociologists to study.

So the first graph I have up here is just amount of protection for society. And if you look there, the death penalty is a really high protection for society because that person is permanently removed from society, so there's no way they can commit a crime again. And if they're in prison, it's pretty hard for them to. And then on the far left side, the least amount of protection for society is probation.

But it's not quite as simple as that. The amount of costs for society-- now cost can mean many different things. I'm not just talking here about financial costs, although most of these is true for financial costs as well. It can be emotional cost. It can be cost of making a mistake. You can see that the amount of cost for society, things that are high in protection also are high in cost.

So let's take, for example, the death penalty. The death penalty is something that, maybe even globally, I guess, it's not as widely supported and used as it is in the United States. And one of the critiques of the death penalty is that because it is a permanent quote unquote "solution," if you make a mistake, there's no way you can ever fix it, especially there's been many cases where DNA evidence has now come and someone that was awaiting the death penalty, they found DNA evidence saying, no, look, this person, there's no way they committed this crime. This was another person that committed this crime.

And so there's a lot of cost of maybe killing an innocent person. There's also the cost for the death penalty specifically of the long court battles. It cost considerably more to send someone to their death than it does to send them for prison for the rest of their life.

Another way to think about costs, too, is to think about every individual being a resource, and someone committing a crime, not making them bad, not making their resources bad, when you decide to send someone to prison for 20 years, our society is losing out on that person's chance to have a positive impact in society. There's a family they left behind. There's just intellectual power they left behind. There's creativity. There's so many different ways.

And when we protect society a lot by these really harsh death penalties or harsh prison sentences, we're also punishing society because the individuals have all these connections in there. So, again, all this is all really gray area, but I just want to make sure we mention it there because that's really what sociologists are interested in and when they're looking at the correctional system.

So today's takeaway message, societal protection is just protecting society by removing an offender from society. And criminal recidivism is just that people who committed the original crime reoffend later. They have an offense later. The death penalty is a permanent killing of somebody for a crime. Community-based corrections are programs that are within society rather than behind prison walls.

And we learned about probation, which is where an offender remains under the supervision of a community supervisor; shock probation, where they first go to jail for a very short period of time and then go on probation; and parole, we're, at the end of a prison sentence, they're released to serve the rest of their sentence in the community. Well, that's it for this lesson. Good work, and hopefully, you'll be seeing me on your screen again soon. Peace.

Terms to Know
Community-Based Corrections

Forms of punishment aimed at reform, rather than mere incarceration, and operate outside of jails and prisons.

Criminal Recidivism

Repeated criminal offenses. Any offense after an initial offense is an example of criminal recidivism.

Death Penalty

A sentence of death reserved for severe crimes.

Parole

When an inmate is released early and gets to serve the rest of his or her sentence outside the prison under the loose supervision of a parole officer.

Probation

A form of punishment where the convicted offender stays in the community but must undertake a court imposed treatment regime.

Shock Probation

A form of punishment where the judge sends the offender to prison for a part of the sentence to "shock" them, and then lets them serve the rest of their sentence in the community with probation conditions.

Societal Protection

A way to control deviance in society by locking up offenders in prisons or sentencing them to the death penalty.