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Old 04-12-2012, 01:27 PM   #1
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Default Another prison-related question

Rather than cluttering up the other thread with my nonsense, I've started another one. I hope Gaspers and Ryano will chip in on this with their views.

Bit of a lengthy set-up, so bear with me.

This is a question about rehabilitation and reform of violent offenders.

For the sake of argument, let's say that the only consideration in determining prison policy is a practical one: when violent criminals have served their time and been released, we want as few as possible to reoffend. So leave aside questions of justice and so on. The goal is only to have ex-cons commit fewer crimes.

So to contrast two extreme positions:

1. Make prisons as punitive as possible. Little opportunities for leisure, reading, learning skills, learning trades etc. The logic here would be that (a) prison needs to be a deterrent, so no one is going to dare commit a crime again, because they don't want to go back to that hell. (b) attempts to skill them up or change them would be wasted effort - they are either incapable of change, or they just don't want to.

2. Make prisons more humane. Allow and encourage education, learning skills, learning trades, keep prisoners occupied. The logic here would be (a) putting violent people into an inhumane and deprived environment just makes them worse and (b) doesn't afford them any possibility of change and (c) when they are released, means they are institutionalised, deskilled and therefore unequipped to cope on the outside (meaning they reoffend). Though critics would then argue that if life is too pleasant inside, it's no deterrent.

Which do you think is the more desirable policy? Both are caricatures, but if you leaned more towards one than the other, which would it be and why? Again, leave aside the rights and wrongs of punishment - just from the point of view of stopping reoffending.

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