What and to the offender for breaking the law.

What is the primary objective
of punishment?

 

 To serve
as a deterrant to both the larger public and to the offender for breaking the
law. Argueably the system aims to push the offendres’ behavioural pattern from
living on the wrong side of the law to the right side, by cultivating a fear
psychosis  – the result of crime being
harsh punishment meted out through the prison system.

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The concept of prisons dates all the way back
to the conception of States. In order to conceive a State certain laws had to
be laid down in the form of legal codes. The most prominent of these early legal codes is the Code of Hammurabi,1 written in Babylon around 1770 BC. The penalties for
violations of the laws in code were almost all centered on the concept of
retaliation, whereby the perpetrators were often punished by the victims
themselves., which tended to be arbitrary. Ancient Greek philosophers like Plato, began to
develop ideas of using a uniform code of punishment, meted out through the
machinery of the state, to decide the consequences of a crime. This has evolved
into the prison system.

 

Prisons have four main aims : protection of the
public by removal of the offender from society, so they no longer pose a threat
to the general public (incapacitation) .To punish the offender for not abiding
by the law and causing harm to other individuals. To serve as a deterrent to the
offender and to other individuals. To rehabilitate the offender.

 

Whilst
prisons fulfill their aims completely on the first two counts, and maybe to
some extent, as a deterrent to the larger public, it is seen as a  near failure(get a quote) as a deterrent to
the offender. Thus leading to a distinctly emerging trend towards the last i.e.

rehabilitation of offenders.

 

A
major problems faced by prison systems, or any institution that deals with
offenders is recidivism -when a person relapses into criminal behavior after
receiving intervention for a previous crime. Recidivism is what criminal
correctional institutions are fighting to eradicate the world over.  “Recidivism means more
crime, more victims and more financial costs to the state. It places enormous
pressures on the prison system, increasing prisoner numbers, overcrowding, and
costs.” Quotes

 

A
study of Nigerian prisons
in 2009 reported that 81% of male criminal offenders and 45% of female criminal
offenders were rearrested within 36 months of discharge from prison. The main
findings of this study were : when prisoners are released they are not prepared
to deal with the outside world. A typical offender leaves prison without any
savings, and very few employment opportunities, as not very many institutions
hire convicted criminals.  A majority of
prisoners function on levels of low literacy, many are unable to even fill out
a job application, read a bus schedule, or calculate a price discount. This
also plays a major role in them not being able to hold steady jobs for extended
periods of time, or any jobs at all, leading to offenders falling back into
their life of crime in order to survive. Longer prison sentences are also not a
very effective deterrent. This pattern is not limited by geographical borders,
and is also present in developed countries.

 

Recidivism
rate in the US is as high as
67%, whilst that of Norway, the lowest in the world, only 1 in 5
prisoners is re-arrested, mainly on account of its rehabilitative philosophy.

 

Evidences of rehabilitative action were seen as
late as the 19th Century in dispersed places like Australia, United states of America,
specifically Colorado and the United Kingdom in specific prisons rather
than any geographies. Early rehabilitative activities where centered around
understanding why criminals committed offences  , rather than any “rehabilitative” action. However
as the body of information from the efforts grew, the paradigm shifted towards
effective utilization of the prisoners’ time ,

 

Instead of keeping them in traditional cells or
solitary confinement, idle all day, their time was utilized in such a way,
which is beneficial to them and the rest of society.

 

Rehabilitation is an umbrella term which
encompasses different types of support and assistance.

At its first level,
also its most widespread, it  can be
educational, where the prisoners are bestowed with knowledge. It can be in the
form of psychological counseling, or vocational training. All of these equip them
with the capacity to deal with society (restorative justice) and life outside
prison; to help secure stable jobs and lives , thus reducing recidivism rates.

 

Many prisons across the world are giving
rehabilitation utmost importance with their contemporary and open minded prison
policies. Prisoners at Mekelle Prison, in northern
Ethiopia, are provided with microfinance and insurance loans to start
cooperatives based on business ideas nurtured in educational and vocational
classes offered while they were behind bars. The prison has supported 31
different co-operations in construction, textiles, and agriculture. “I
have been amazed to discover how prison life is like a university,” said a
23-year-old prisoner, Almaz Gebriel. “I have earned certificates in plumbing,
woodwork, pig rearing, and beauty salon training. The cooperative experience
has allowed me to earn an income while in prison.” Classes like these benefit
not only the prisoners themselves, but the economy and the society as a whole.

In Slovenia prisoners are allowed to hold jobs during the week, outside of
prison and return for the weekend, there are various factors which determine
the eligibility of a prisoner to do so, mainly his or her behavior in prison.

Uruguay’s National Rehabilitation Center,
outside Montevideo, boasts extremely low recidivism rates , around 10 to 12 %,
drastically contrasting the national average at 60%. Facilities offered here
are classes which range from  plumbing to mechanics to gardening. The Indira
Gandhi National Open university set up 94 study centers in prisons across India
, in different jails like Madurai and Tiruchi. As of May 2015, 25,000 prisoners had participated in
these programs.

 

The Kaithu Sub jail in Shimla is not like any ordinary prison. The prisoners are sent out for
work within an eight kilometer radius, everyday. They are selected depending on
their conduct in jail, sentence duration and adherence to parole conditions.

jobs range from chefs to teachers to waiters. Two inmates also run a book café
and some of them sell confectionary from the prison bakery, another runs a
mobile canteen on the streets of Shimla. their
temporary freedom comes to an end by sunset ; all the prisoners must be back by
6 pm sharp. Unpunctuality is not tolerated.

 

.

At
its next level, rehabilitation goes beyond upskilling to a more free existence.

 

Suomenlinna
Island in Helsinki, Finland , is home to the suomenlinna  “open” prison , established in 1971. Everyday
95 male prisoners make their way to the mainland to work or study and some to
do the towns general maintenance, the prison has a range of facilities ranging
from televisons, table tennis tables and steel darts, cases of violence are
extremely rare , the gaurds do not carry batons or pepper spray. However the
inmates are constantly monitored using survelince cameras and other equipment.

 

A
common practice in Scandanavian prisons is for each prisoner to have a “contact officer”  who guides and rehabilitates the prisoner and
acts like his or her personal councilor. This practice was enforced to help protect
the correctional officers. Across the world correctional officers are plagued
with a range of ailments like stress, hypertension , alcoholism, etc , which is
a result of serving a purely punitive function. it benefits both prisoner and
correctional officer, but it does have its drawbacks. All these methods only
work in prisons with a very low number of inmates. The total number of
prisoners in Finland is 3174*.  

 

In
contrast, the Rikers Island prison in New York, a “traditional” prison, has a
total inmate population of around 10,000, equal to the combined prison
populations of Sweden, Norway and Finland, all in one facility!

 

On the other hand, prison is an extremely violent environment
for individuals to be in. Prison
assaults and incidents of self-harm rose more than 70% from 2013 to 2016 and the number of suicides
doubled in the last 4 years. Prison drastically affects the mental health of
the incarcerated individuals too. Incarcerated individuals often
suffer long-term consequences(WHAT TYPE) from having been subjected to pain,
deprivation, and extremely atypical patterns and norms of living and
interacting with others. In traditional prisons the inmates are made to do
menial jobs like janitors, painters, maintenance of the prison; ones that would
not neccesarily “upskill” them, leaving them high and dry once they get out of
prison.

In
international contracts such as those dealing with the construction of roads, Chinese
corparations are able to out bid their competitors as their labour charges are beyond
cheap. Why are they so you may ask? The Chinese government has given these
corporations the permission to use the incarcerated population as a workforce! Thus
giving them an unbeatable edge in the bidding war.

The solution of rehabilitation
lies in shades of grey. Many prisons , especially those in developing countries
face the obstacle of overcrowding , a large and menacing one. Quezon City prison in Manila  was constructed for 800 inmates but currently
houses 3800! Inmates have reported sharing one prison cell with 30 other
people. In prisons like these, there are no proper bathrooms or toilets.

Inmates use their bathroom as their kitchen, sometimes simultaneously. The
question of priorities of problems comes into play in a situation like this. Should
they work on prisoner rehabilitation or getting them basic facilities in order
to serve their sentence in humane conditions

 

According
to the office of the inspector of custodial services of the Government of
Australia, it takes, on average $120,000
(Rupees 76.7 lakh) per annum to keep one prisoner in prison. An exorbitantly
high amount. Therefore it becomes imperative for all nations to keep their
prison populations as  low as possible.

 

Punitive
measures have proven to be dysfunctional as recidivism rates in the UK are 50%. The deprivation of freedom
is punishment enough. in most developing countries, where  prison infrastructure living with those facilities,
or lack there of, exponentially adds to the punishment of deprivation of
freedom.

 

The
framework of punishment has been set – no freedom. Rehabilitation should take place
within this framework. The main aims of 
rehabilitation: to upskill, educate, and alter the behavior of the
subject habitually so that they have better chance of turning over a new leaf.

 

What
I have noticed is that all the rehabilitative programs are on a small scale,
limited to specific prisons rather than any nationwide rehabilitation programs,
with the exception of the Scandinavian states. Another factor is the mindset of
the people, what works in one country may not neccesarily work in others, owing
to drastically different cultures and morals. Rehabilitative programs should
take into account these differences in culture, economy and society, while
tailoring their framework. Prior to researching this topic, I never really had
a strong opinion about prisons or inmate rehabilitation . But as I furthered my research I
understood recidivism and its impacts on a much deeper level, on nations ,
society and the inmates. Rehabilitative measures are the way forward as they
have proven to be more effective as they benefit stakeholders.

1 https://www.britannica.com/topic/Code-of-Hammurabi