Recently I had had a few debates with several people about the relevancy of prisons. Whether or not prisons where an appropriate form of punishment in our modern times. The opposing view was that prisons did more harm than good, by further indoctrinating people into crime or that prisons permanently hinders people from ever fully entering mainstream society after they are released. Off course many people who hold an anti-prison viewpoint don’t give an alternative to prisons or when they do it’s a vague answer such as rehabilitation, without giving details on how this rehabilitation would be administered.
I am not at all condoning our justice system. There is certainly many ways in which it can be approved. It is particularly audacious that the United States has less than five percent of the global population but holds about twenty-five percent of its prison population. So I say the problem isn’t necessarily prisons, but the fact that we have too many people in prisons and that one particular ethnic group is overly represented among that prison population.
I wholeheartedly believe that many offenses that warrant prison sentences today are unjust. Such as drug offenses, which on the surface is a victimless crime since it involves two consenting parties, the drug dealer and the purchaser of the drug. I also believe crimes like tax evasion and failure to pay child support shouldn’t warrant prison time since it does more bad than good by having society pay for the maintenance of offenders who essentially didn’t pay society in the first place, an unusual sense of justice if one truly thinks about it.
To run any modern society you need to establish a government with effective rule of law. The government must have some coercive power to make sure all it’s populace abide her laws. How do you deter people from engaging in crime? By establishing punitive retribution for anyone who breaks the law. The most popular form of such a retribution in all nations is a prison system. In prehistoric human societies, humans probably carried punishment on an offender in three ways. The first was in a form of payment to the offending party through cattle, tools, or involuntary servitude; second would be in exclusion from the clan or in other words being permanently banned from the group; third would have been death.
All three are used today in a modified form, the first through fines that one would pay( usually as tickets for a minor offense); The second would be imprisonment which is essentially separating someone from everyone else, and third (although not very common among industrialized nation) is the death penalty.
Many would argue that prison act as a conditioning for criminals, but has that to do with the Prisons are the innate conditions of the prisoner himself. Among people there are just bad apples, some people are naturally more aggressive; more impulsive; less able to use foresight in their decisions as compared to others, coupled this with unsavory environment leaves some prone to criminality, and of course leaves the rest of us with the difficult decision of the best way to deal with said crime.
Off course I am not arguing against any imposition of reform. I feel as if reform is important particularly in the case of minor offenders. But this should be available as an opposition for prisoners and not so much a requirement. First and foremost prisons are meant as punishment and should be seen as such, consequences are that best deterrent to ill behavior. Still, access to some reformatory programs would be good for both the inmate and society. Programs such as skill training or educational opportunity would help inmates reintegrate into mainstream society after being released from prison.
In point, in order to truly argue against prisons, you have come up with a system that both keeps society safe and can address how to reduce crime.