Prisons; an incomplete solution to an unsolvable problem

Prisons, a site for reformation and metamorphosis into an exemplary law-abiding citizen; or a haven for society’s underclass to idly loiter their remaining days disenchanted by society’s interpretation of the ever-changing notion of justice?

Based on the Strain theory and the perception that crime results from ‘anomie,’ it is evident that our culture includes but the structure excludes the disadvantaged; exemplifying the fact that there is a distinct statistical association between recorded crime and income inequality and social class.

In comparison to the general population in the UK; prisoners are 13 times more likely to have been unemployed, and 2.5 times more likely to have had a family member convicted of a criminal offence; hence reaffirming the sentiment that the ‘underprivileged,’ are more liable to end up in confinement. Akin to Young & Lea’s (1993) claim, ‘the poor suffer disproportionately from all the more serious forms of crime’.

As society has developed the notion of crime has been re-evaluated and the government’s persistence in promoting tougher penalties has been greatly scrutinised; as it is questionable whether putting an individual in solitary confinement is beneficial for society. Statistics prove that 74% of convicted criminals re-offend within nine years of leaving prison. Thus, is the £40,000 of taxpayers’ money that is pumped into supplementing and upholding our system of justice doing its worth? Breaking the cycle of crime in our society that has been the fundamental ambition behind reformations to our justice system; and the continuous funds that our coalition is injecting into upholding this ideology even in times of economic downturn has led many to question; is it worth it?

One could acknowledge that reinvesting these vast funds into reconstructing our criminal judicial system and aiming to make justice more responsive locally would be a more viable route. The fact that 70% of individuals who have been cautioned, do not reoffend cements the perception that restorative justice would reduce the need for imprisonment. Further to this, it is widely acknowledged that criminals affiliate themselves with subsequent offenders in prison and liaise with them post the conclusion of their sentence, essentially paving the way for future, more heinous crimes that could affect a greater deal of civilians.

Thus, one can question the fundamental need for prisons and the adequate solutions that one can enforce to chastise the felon and to deter others from breaching the law. Although, considered barbaric and uncivilised in today’s society; subsequent methods of punishment alike to flogging have a plethora of advantages in comparison to prisons. This is as, for instance, flogging is a one-time occurrence, and can be done individually and anywhere, hence; the excessive funds that are pumped into maintaining the prisons can be utilised in a more productive and efficient manner. Also, prisons become more arduous to manage as they enlarge, and are greatly susceptible to corruption when an isolated culture is formed among the guards and administrative powers.  Further to this, prisons are often eulogized by criminals and thus, its environment is often considered a breeding ground for further crimes; rather than a site for rehabilitation.

All in all, it is apparent that the notion of prisons and their fundamental purpose has become esoteric in recent years; but is in dire need of reformation, as supplies are depleting and it is essential that we allocate resources to those that need it the most.

By Yong-Gyum Kim, Law Editor

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