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< Back to question What is the role of the police in America? Show more Show less

The American police force has the capacity to do most anything, but there is currently much controversy about what exactly they should be doing. Given the police’s almost boundless authority, defining their job is imperative to maintaining our constitutional rights while keeping everyone as safe as possible.

To be re-envisioned Show more Show less

Rather than act as disciplinary and punitive forces, the police could act as rehabilitators.
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Police could be reimagined as enforcers of “transit prisons.”

Rather than lock people away from society, police could let them live in a society with appropriate limits in a broadening of the institution of probation.
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Proponents


Context

With almost 1% of Americans in prison, we are at a critical juncture in terms of how to define our correctional system [1]. Should it expand, remain as is, or be reformed? There are people on all sides of the debate, but reaching a consensus is important so as to implement cohesive, effective policy regarding prisons and the police.

The Argument

When people are lucky enough to get probation or parole, minor violations of its complicated rules result in a great many offenders needlessly returning to incarceration [2]. The police are involved in this process both by making their initial arrest, and then monitoring or ending their probation. By merging probation officers and police, the way in which probation works could radically change. Rather than leave people on their own, constant police presence in their life in the form of friendly, helpful officers would reduce recidivism rates. This could be undercover cars following them that are distinct to the offender – i.e. certain white cars are their entourage of cops. This would likely function as a major deterrent to committing more crimes, and cost no more money than incarcerating someone. This reform could be exceptionally helpful to those who are on probation for drug crimes. For example, the officers following a drug addict could use their authority to physically stop this person from purchasing drugs or alcohol - without arresting them. The police could be used to reverse the current drug epidemic by keeping drug addicts sober in the manner described above. By keeping drugs illegal, but aiding drug addicts, police could be both enforcers of the law and rehabilitators. They are currently only being used as punitive forces, and so are not being utilized to their full potential. Their technology, resources, and authority mean they could be as adept at rehabilitation as they are at undercover operations. This argument assumes that by placing a great many offenders on this new version of probation, rates of incarceration and recidivism would drop. This is likely true, but will not be known until the above policy is actuated. The axiom of this argument is that the police should take a more active role in the correctional system, rather than just funneling people to prison.

Counter arguments

The police are just one part of the correctional system. They have enough to do without also becoming an amped up correctional officer for drug addicts. Furthermore, a great many people on parole and probation are there for non-drug related offenses. What exactly would the police do for them in this “transit prison” scenario? With such a ridiculous policy, there is no evidence to support the claim that this merging of probation and prisons would cost the same as incarcerating someone. Is this really the best use of our tax dollars? What is so wrong with putting a drug addict who violates probation back in prison? The drug epidemic is real, but the police are in their proper role today as crime stoppers. They really do have enough to do without adopting the role of U.S. Marshall and social worker for a select few. Their technology, time, and resources can be better put to other things. The police’s job is to stop and prevent crime, but not in this way. Even if implementing this policy would reduce incarceration and recidivism rates, it wouldn’t necessarily be good for society. Think of how much more police presence there would be in everyone’s lives as a result.

Premises

Rejecting the premises


References

  1. https://www.prisonpolicy.org/blog/2020/01/16/percent-incarcerated/
  2. https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2020.html

This page was last edited on Sunday, 2 Aug 2020 at 18:42 UTC