Making Sense of the Criminal Justice System

Evaluating and analyzing the world from a broader and deeper perspective allows us to know that the world is not a fair place. There does not occur any one-sided thing in fact contradictions do prevail here for instance, where there is good there is bad, honesty dishonesty, beauty ugliness, truth falsehood, and so on. Similarly, people do not only act in a way that is considered to be good or valuable to the society, but there are also rule-breakers who can be categorized under the names of criminals, murderers, thieves, and rapists. Evil flourishes when it is not stopped or apposite measures are not taken to thwart it, hence there are also some measures that are usually adapted to punish the criminals and make it a lesson for others not to commit crime. One old and most common type of punishment is imprisonment. The paper would discuss the history of prison, need and purposes of prison, arguments for and against the abolishment of prison, followed by the conclusion.

Looking back to the history of prison, in 16th and 17th century it was considered to be a place where the criminals were held temporarily before their trial or other form of punishment. Men, women, children, murderers, all used to be in the same prison before their further trial or proceedings. Those prisons were poorly maintained and many prisoners died due to diseases or fever that overwhelmed them. Whereas, in the 18th century, imprisonment with hard labor was considered to be a suitable punishment for the criminals, followed by the 19th century where capital punishment was seen as an alternative and addition to the imprisonment that suits best for the offenders (, 2010).
The 20th century proved to be the era in which the development of prison took place. Separate prisons were introduced along with different types of prisons for different offenders. Moreover, many private organizations took interest in forming, funding, and running the prisons.

Need for Prisons
This part of essay would elaborate on the need and necessity that is there behind the punishment of offenders. But first, there are some characteristics and statistics that need to be considered for better understanding of the need of prisons these days. According to ABS, the statistics for the prisoner population in Australia show that there are 93 prisoners are male which is 14 times higher than that of females. Average age for the prisoners is around 31 to 32 years, where male prisoners were involved in assault, robbery and sex and females were involved in drug offences, fraud, and robbery.

Around 16 of the prisoners are passing the sentence for less than a year, 23 of two to five years, and 22 of five to ten years. Those who have committed a murder usually faced around 19 years of sentence in the prison. The statistics profile shows that the males and females are imprisoned for different number of years and young male who commit violent offences usually face long-term imprisonment. Another major finding was that around 80 to 90 percent of the prisoners had no coping skills and dont possess the ability to easily manage and form a strategy to control themselves and organize their lives. The question arises here is that why and for what reasons are these people being punished for, poverty, ignorance, illiteracy, disorganized life, or all of these Now lets focus on the reasons that justify this question.

The mid 19th century carried a sense of new prison as an institution that was formed for the rehabilitation and rescuing the criminals instead of only punishing them. Later it became the place for punishment for serious offenders and the offenders actually realized that they would have to face incarceration if they commit any crime or offence. Before that, the punishment was much less physical, which means that there was flogging, mutilation, or death for the criminals for changing their attitudes.

There are some interpretations that have been developed by the historian and sociologists regarding the fact that why imprisonment is assumed to be a well-known place in contemporary punishment.  According to Marxists, the prison arose with the introduction of industrial capitalism. The prisons were formed to control the lower and working class in several situations, for instance, controlling their acts of violence, theft, robbery, or assault when there is industrial unrest, low wages, unemployment, or economic crises.

According to a French theorist, Foucault, stated that the prisons were just like a mirror of power relationships that prevail in the society. In other words, the prisons are the means to develop and maintain the discipline, control, and supervision. He didnt believe in the purpose of rehabilitation that was supposed to be provided through prisons in fact, the roles of prisons were to identify, categorize, and separate the people from the whole population.

Moreover, there are also some theorists who have proposed several other roles that are possessed by the prisons. First, control the people or prisoners by debilitating them and punishing them. Another reason is of rehabilitating them and indulging them in re-socializing. And finally the prisons help in providing a broader symbolic purpose to control other people through the power of normal citizens. The main theme behind sending the offenders to the prison is that the trend of law and order asks us to do so. Some examples of contemporary themes for prisons include the sending of offenders to community corrections where they are bound to work for the community and provide services. This is considered to be an alternative of custodial corrections and also a humane and compassionate way of punishing the offenders.

Other purposes of prisons might include that since the prisoners are not allowed the access to facilities and peace that hey normally have, therefore, it compels him to shape his attitude due to which he committed the crime. Since women are sexually abused and experience much bitter life-time in the prison than men by not being provided with enough facilities and programs, therefore, their rehabilitation and medication becomes another purpose in order to relieve them from sickness and poor health  either mental or physical.

Arguments For and Against Abolishment of Prison
There are several perspectives for the abolishment of prisons that the Prison Abolitionists talk about. They think that imprisonment is an indefensible and morally liable punishment that should be abolished. These abolitionists believe in reconciliation and are not in favor of punishment. Present system goes after punishing and hurting the criminal no matter what has gone wrong with him, whereas, the abolitionists think in recovering the loss of both the criminal and as well as the victim. The favor minimal coercion or indulgence in the personal lives of people, but do care about providing the offenders and victims with services and care.

Abolitionists try comforting the prisoners by working with them but remaining non-members of the imprisonment system. They try reducing the psychological pressures that overwhelm the prisoners. Another perspective is that the abolitionists are like allies of the prisoners who do no act as traditional helpers (, n.d). They go after what can actually help and motivate the prisoners to get out of their worn-out, gloomy life and begin a new one with hope.

Abolitionists believe that there lies enough power with us that can easily help us to challenge and closing down the prison system. Specific policies and practices can be adapted by those who are powerful enough and can play their role in abolishing this prison system. They think that the crimes are committed due to the flaws present in the structure of society. They tend to indulge in bringing in the change in community and society, which would ameliorate the society and mitigate the criminal acts. Moreover, abolitionists say that short-term prison sentences have a poorer recidivism rate than community sentences (Herbert, 2008). All what is behind the shutting down of prison is the basic motif in which abolitionists believe in, and that is encouraging the freedom and justice for the prisoners (Berndt, 2003).

Whereas, on the other hand, the prisons should not be closed because they are the main source of punishment or detention where the offenders or criminals are brought to and are preceded with further trials and actions. If this main place is abandoned then the criminals would get some sort of encouragement and bravery in committing crimes and offences. Moreover, there isnt any one type of crime that is being done these days in fact there are many and cause different types of harms and effects that need to be treated the same way.

Therefore we can conclude that the system of imprisonment started from 16th century and got tougher and tougher with the passage of time. This system is still prevailing for the purpose of punishments and seems to be very attractive and effective to many of us. There are several purposes behind keeping the system going on, but abolitionists dont favor it and encourage abolishing the system.


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