Does Prison Work?

Topics: Prison, Crime, Punishment, Sentence / Pages: 9 (2156 words) / Published: Dec 12th, 2013
Does Prison Work?

Since the beginning of recorded history, imprisonment has been used as a method of punishing those who have broken societies laws. However, the nature of prisons has changed throughout history to adapt to societies norms. In recent years, our custodial facilities have been questioned more and more as a form of state punishment. In this essay I will attempt to answer the question of whether imprisonment is really an effective form of punishment in terms of it being a deterrent to criminal behaviour, as well as its effectiveness in rehabilitating those who have broken the law. I will also be answering questions such as “Are all types of criminal behaviour equally likely to be reduced by the use of prison as a deterrent?”.

Defining State punishment

A normal citizens definition of punishment would likely follow along the lines of “A deterrent to an actual or supposed offender, inflicted by an institution or authority against whom the offence was committed” Flew (1954). This is a simple definition, the main criticism against it being that it doesn’t go into specific detail concerning mitigating circumstances such as the nature/severity of the offence, or the victims of the offence in question.

State punishment was defined by Criminological theorist Nigel Walker as “A sanction imposed on law breakers, which is decreed by law with the passing of legislation ordered by judicial authorities (in this case the courts), and is executed by legitimate state law enforcement agencies (The courts, the probation services, the prison authorities etc)” Walker (1991). Leading on from this, Nigel Walker identified 7 key characteristics of state punishment:

1. The punishment is painful to the offender, whether this pain takes the form of physical, mental, or emotional suffering.

2. The punishment is intentional, and serves a purpose

3. The punishment is legitimate

4. The punishment is justified (partially determined by the culpability of the



Bibliography: * Walker, N. (1991) Crime and Criminology * Review of Offender Learning. Making prisons work: skills for rehabilitation (2011) * Mathiesen, T. (1990). Prison on trial. London: Sage * Fowles, T. (2006) Counterblast: The Criminal Justice Act 2003 – The end of an Era?The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, 45(1): 71-3 * Matthews, R. (2009) Prisons in C. Hale, K. Hayward, A. Wahidin, and E.Wincup. (eds) Criminology, 2nd Edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press

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