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steve freer

Business Development, Ministry Of Justice UK

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Does prison work?

For a certain cohort of prisoner i.e prolific burglar,should we ignore the issues of why they commit crime or intervene and challenge?
I categorise offenders as Bad / Mad and Sad and the burglars usually fall into the Sad category.To ignore their issues and send them back onto the streets as they came in,is failing society and a backward step.
To engage with them ,deal with the issues and send them out work ready is hugely beneficial to all parties.
Reduce reoffending
Reduce number of victims
Reduce cost to taxpayer
Create a worthwhile being who could pass this on to future generations,rather than the alternative of becoming a career criminal impacting on our society in a negative way..

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  • Jul 20 2012: Well, first we have to assess what we mean by "work." Do they accomplish the goals of those who imprison people? The key is understanding the goals and they are twofold.

    One goal is punishment and, certainly, is the primary goal. You may not feel it should be, nor do I, but it actually is. Does it work as a punishment? Yes. Most inmates kept longterm are evaluated by their psychologists as suffering from a panoply of problems due to incarceration. Its like a kind of slow torture. There are many who will argue they are satisfied by this because they find their crimes so reprehensible and there are others who feel 2 wrongs don't make a right but in the end, if punishment is the goal, it works.

    The second goal is keeping them away from society. Given that they are imprisoned, we'd have to concede that goal is satisfied as well.

    If the system were run by people who actually wanted to rehabilitate convicts rather than punish them in a chamber of horrors, replete with beatings, rapes and confinement in such small, dim places that a kind of madness must surely ensue, then we'd have to say no, it doesnt work. Convicts exit prisons hardened, unstable, and disturbed. Many have said they learn how to refine their criminal tactics while in a think-tank of crime.

    But can we, as a society, seek to rehabilitate rather than punish? Right now, more and more prisons are springing up under private corporations. Its become very profitable to imprison people. And with wealthy corporations owning politicians, there are many more prisoners who will get no hope of exit. I recently saw a film documenting the construction of a "supermax" prison and a lot of thought went into how to construct cells to emotionally harm the occupants. To keep costs down, they chose not to use electric lights but rather natural sunlight -however steps were taken to ensure there were no windows so the prisoner had not even a tiny view of the outside world. The builders were adamant about this, and gleeful.

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