What does incarceration control?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that incarceration helps to control the public perception of crime.  The standard belief is that the building of more prisons and the perception that more criminals are being "locked up" helps to build the idea that incarceration controls criminal activity.  The reality might be more along the lines that incarceration controls most of the public demand for "justice."  People feel that there is a greater emphasis on controlling crime when incarceration is viewed.  Some of this might lie in the idea that if the prisoners are "locked up," they are out of society's view, or "not in my backyard" and thus incarceration helps to control the perceived feeling of safety and security.  I think that there can be statistics to point to how incarceration controls criminal activity, but it does not seem very logical to presume that the presence of incarceration deters people from pursuing criminal activity.  While other forces argue that incarceration works as a control against crime, I tend to feel that what incarceration does control is political perception of crime and the social view that the role of incarceration provides safety.