Prison is ineffective because most of the people come out worse than they went in
Prisons are considered as a means of safeguarding the community and rehabilitate the prisoners. However, there have been instances, which establish that the prisons fail to rehabilitate people instead leads to an incline in the risk of reoffending. Every year a person is kept in prison, it increases the probability of the person to commit another crime after they are released from the prison. In other words, prisons do not deter crime instead; it enhances the rate of crime. In Victoria, the sole purpose of sentencing is deterrence and the instinctive ground of deterrence that is, the punishment of an offender shall act as prevention for the offenders, which would reduce the occurrence of crime (Carey and Del Medico 2014). However, this instinctive ground has ceased to become adequate to develop a sound criminal justice policy.
In Victoria, prison sentences are usually imposed for three basic purposes- denunciation, punishment, rehabilitation, deterrence and community protection. The impact of denunciation and punishment is perceived as direct responses to the criminal behavior where denunciation refers to the statement to the offender and the community that criminal behavior shall not be tolerated in the community (Tubex et al. 205). Punishment refers to the infliction of a sanction upon the offender in proportion to the harm caused by the offender, which implies that punishment is a form of redressal against the moral imbalance caused by such criminal offender.
Rehabilitation, deterrence and community protection are perceived as mere responses to the criminal behavior and purport to attain the objective of reduction in the commission of crimes in the future. Several researches have revealed that imprisonment has often resulted in greater rate of recidivism. The possible reasons for the increase in the offending rate is that prisons provide a learning environment for crime and strengthens the criminal identity, which may ultimately, sever the social connections that promote lawful behaviors. Harsh prison environment and conditions do not develop any deterrent effect instead, it encourages the criminals to commit further crimes after they are released from the prison.
In Victoria, the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) is the primary legislative source that acts as a guidance on sentencing in Victoria. Section 5(1) of the Sentencing Act 1991 (vic) states that the sole purpose for imposing imprisonment is to deter the offenders and other persons from committing further crimes of similar character. In Veen v The Queen (No 2) (1988) 164 CLR 465, the effect of imprisonment has been explained by the court in relation to the concept of proportionality. The common law principle of proportionality requires the court to impose sentences on offenders, which are proportionate to the severity of the offending behavior. if general deterrence takes place without considering the principle of proportionality would involve threatening of potential future offenders which might led them to commit crimes in future (Jewkes, Crewe and Bennett 2016).
The sentencing of the offenders is a means to make them understand that any person with similar impulses as that of the offenders would be imposed with severe punishment if they intend to omit any further crimes or crimes of similar nature. Although it is a fact, that imposing sentences would not prevent the commission of all forms of crimes but it does not defy the fact that the fear invoked within the offenders from being subject to severe punishment would deter them to commit further crimes. It reduces the probability for committing further crimes as compared to the situation where the offenders had a chance to escape after omitting a crime without being punished or being subject to a light punishment. The imposing of sentences safeguards the society from the violent and dangerous criminals by isolating those offenders severing all the social ties associated with the offenders.
However, people who commit offences but are not imposed with sentences are often sent to rehabilitation centers and correctional services. However, in the correctional homes where the offenders comprise the youth in particular, they receive adequate counseling so that they can lead a better life and reinstate their social ties (Cunneenrt al. 2016). There have been instances, where the children or the young offenders do not consider the counseling services and tend to commit crimes after they are released from the correctional homes or the rehabilitation centers’. On the contrary, the offenders who are subject to severe punishments and are imposed with sentences, tend to deter from committing crimes after they are released as they are not treated with counselors, instead they are subject to harsh treatment.
Nevertheless, the Sentencing Advisory Council of Victoria (SAC) is of the opinion that harsher sentencing is the main factor of the prison population. The brutal conditions of incarceration are primary factor for enhancing the rate of recidivism. The treatment received by the child offenders under the youth justice system is particularly poignant, as the protection of the children in custody has become a raising concern in Australia (Clinard, Quinney and Wildeman 2014). Several media reports have revealed the inhuman treatment that the 13 years and 10 years old are subjected to in the detention centers’ in Northern Territory. The prisoners, adult or children, are subject to high level of violent, abuse, bullying and other mental health problems not only from the staffs of the prisons but also from the inmates as well.
Prisons have undergone several changes and modern day prisons have TVs in the cells. Although the prisons have changed but the necessity of prisons persists to remain. There shall always remain a small section of offenders who poses a threat to the society and the lives of the people in the society owing to their criminal behavior and they shall be kept in the prisons, separate from the law-abiding citizens of the society (Marma, De Lint and Palmer 2012).
The contention regarding abolishment of the prison system rests on several assertions. If the fact that the prisons aims at deterring criminals from committing further crimes by punishing them is set aside, it is perceived that short-term sentences leads to increase in the recidivism but long term sentences lowers the rate even if it lowers the recidivism rate by a fewer percent. It can be said, here that longer sentences and not abolishment of prisons altogether, is likely to provide the offenders with the opportunity to rehabilitate.
There is a necessity of punishing criminals for their criminal behavior in the modern day society because of the high crime rates in the society. Some people would differ and assert that the prison system is better if abolished as the system is flawed inherently. Some are of the opinion that the crime rates would not come down even if the prison system were abolished, there would not be any change in the crime rates whatsoever. Further, the prison system causes the taxpayers to pay more as they are the ones who pays for the prison system and gets nothing in return. Another argument in favor of abolishing the prison system would be that it is illusionary and that labels are placed on people and severs the social ties of the offenders with the rest of the population (Marma, De Lint and Palmer 2012).
However, the arguments against the abolishment of the prison system states that prisons should be reformed instead of being abolished otherwise one would not want to see an offender who committed murder to walk down the street and it would also create chaos. Further, it would also be dangerous for the low abiding citizens as the offender may attack the citizen and commit crimes of similar nature, which gives rise to another significant consequence of abolishing the prison system (Marma, De Lint and Palmer 2012). In other words, the prisoners would commit further crimes of similar nature as they would not have the fear of severe deterrence for committing such crimes. The prisoners would join hands with the criminals with a view to reinstate their power and commit offences and crimes within the society.
There are other social issues existing within the community and the abolishment of the prison system would add up to such issues and eventually lead to an increase in the crime rate of the country (Marma, De Lint and Palmer 2012). The prisons should be reformed instead of abolishing the prison system as if the prisons are abolished; it is hard to even imagine that an offender commits a murder without the fear that he would have to go to prison. They would not think twice before committing any offence, as there would not be any consequence for any criminal action. There would not be any rules or legal deterrence that would prevent an individual from committing any offence.
From the above discussion, it can be inferred that although it is nice to dwell in a society that does not have any prisons, but the growing crime rates in the country cannot be deterred by providing the prisoners with counseling services or by placing the young offenders in the correctional homes. There is a need for strict deterrent system that would ensure that the offenders are deterred from committing further crimes, thus, safeguarding the society from violators of the law of the country.
Carey, L.B. and Del Medico, L., 2014. Correctional services and prison chaplaincy in Australia: an exploratory study. Journal of religion and health, 53(6), pp.1786-1799.
Clinard, M.R., Quinney, R. and Wildeman, J., 2014. Criminal behavior systems: A typology. Routledge.
Cunneen, C., Baldry, E., Brown, D., Brown, M., Schwartz, M. and Steel, A., 2016. Penal culture and hyperincarceration: the revival of the prison. Routledge.
Cunneen, C., Baldry, E., Brown, D., Brown, M., Schwartz, M. and Steel, A., 2016. Penal culture and hyperincarceration: the revival of the prison. Routledge.
Marma, M., De Lint, W. and Palmer, D., 2012. Crime and justice: a guide to criminology. Thomson Reuters (Professional) Australia.
Gordon, H., Kelty, S.F. and Julian, R., 2015. An Evaluation of the Level of Service/Case Management Inventory in an Australian Community Corrections Environment. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 22(2), pp.247-258.
Jewkes, Y., Crewe, B. and Bennett, J. eds., 2016. Handbook on prisons. Routledge.
Tubex, H., Brown, D., Freiberg, A., Gelb, K. and Sarre, R., 2015. Penal diversity within Australia. Punishment & Society, 17(3), pp.345-373.
Van Ness, D.W. and Strong, K.H., 2014. Restoring justice: An introduction to restorative justice. Routledge.
Veen v The Queen (No 2) (1988) 164 CLR 465
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