divided -- some support community-based care (deinstitutionalization), while others support an inpatient system of institutional care to supplement deinstitutionalization, arguing that, in the absence of careful individual monitoring, deinstitutionalization is but a justification for abrogating the state's responsibility to its needy citizens.
In England the community care concept dominates. However, privatization has not been a part of the English system. Local governments have assumed responsibility, and quality of care varies randomly across the country. Costs are maintained by restricting access to the service, which means that some needy people are not well-served. the government is committed to the deinstitutionalization model, and large institutions are likely to close over the next decade.
To title the administrative agency that handles adults and juveniles who ignore society's rules "correction(s)" implies a rehabilitative model. However, rather than rehabilitate, society's primary concern is to keep potential criminals off the street at the lowest possible cost. Although the public desires inmate rehabilitation, public opinion holds that attempts at rehabilitation have not been effective. Deinstitutionalization in corrections is driven not by rehabilitative values, but by the high cost of incarceration.
The commonly used term to reflect deinstitutionalization in corrections is "intermediate sentencing." Criminal justice scholars and practitioners are exploring various ways to protect society that avoid incarceration and probation, the two traditional means of disposing of criminal cases. Incarceration is expensive and does little to rehabilitate; probation is inexpensive but places the public at risk. Intermediate sentencing includes ideas such as home confinement, community service sentences, electronic monitoring, intensive supervision, and boot camps. Home confinement (sometimes called house arrest or community sentencing) is usually coupled with electronic monitoring and intensive supervision. Supervision varies by specific program, and ranges from a few contracts each month up to 50 contacts per week by an officer, either in person or by telephone. As a condition for intermediate sentencing, prisoners agree to community service work, electronic monitoring, curfew, and intensive supervision. The cost is about $15 per day per person, compared to halfway house costs of $35 per day per person. As long as prison populations continue to increase, confinement-monitoring-supervision will likely be used to minimize prison crowding. Drug testing is a part of most intermediate sentencing programs, and drug use, more often than commission of crime, causes revocation of the intermediate sentence.
Boot camps, a more recent alternative, are modeled on military basic training. Young first offenders spend three to six months under a strict regime of closely supervised physical activity and education. Convicts who cannot maintain this disciplined schedule are returned to prison for longer sentences; those who complete the program are paroled. Although popular with the public, the effectiveness of these programs in reducing the recidivism rate has not yet been established.
Deinstitutionalization in corrections has two prime concerns -- low cost and public safety-and these work against each other. Effective, low-cost means of protecting the public is an ongoing challenge which at present has no clear direction. The public must decide on the desired level of sentencing and incarceration. In the field of corrections, deinstitutionalization options at present cannot provide citizen protection to the extent available through incarceration.
Western nations are moving to deinstitutionalize dependent populations. Community care for the mentally ill and aged is rationalized as showing greater responsibility to and respect for the client, while at the same time slowing the rapid budget increases that accompany institutionalization. Prime questions about deinstitutionalization deal not with the goals and intentions of the movement, but with whether implementation of the goals results in clients being treated with greater respect (and thereby being satisfied with the service), whether citizens generally feel comfortable with the emotionally needy possibly missing their medications, and whether costs can be contained. In Europe, where service rationing occurs, can a larger proportion of the needy be extended the service without degrading the quality of the program?
In the criminal justice system, cost and citizen protection are the dominant considerations. Alternatives to institutionalization that do not compromise security are welcomed, and will likely be adopted quickly, perhaps with little prior testing.
It is not presently clear whether deinstitutionalization is the direction of the future, a passing fad, or one component of a strategy to deal with people who cannot or will not conform to the will of society. Perhaps of greater concern than the institutionalization versus deinstitutionalization debate is that cost factors appear to dominate quality of care factors in dealing with these clients. If a civilization is evaluated by the way it treats its least favored, how will we be judged?
ROBERT B. CUNNINGHAM
American Behavioral Scientist, 1981. 24( 6):721-842.
Byrne, James, Arthur Lurigio and Joan Petersilia, eds., 1992. Smart Sentencing. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Challis, David, Bleddyn Davies and Karen Traske, eds., 1994. Community Care: New Agendas and Challenges from the UK and Overseas. Aldershot, GB: Ashgate.