In any country, prison is a significant and vital part of the criminal justice system. When put into good use, prisons play an important role in safeguarding the rule of law by assisting in confirming that purported offenders are brought to justice and providing a sanction for wrongdoing. A prison is meant to be a place where prisoners obtain assistance and rehabilitation through humane experience. On the other hand, prisons can be cages of appalling suffering. To ensure that prisons offer rehabilitation through humane experiences, there are International prescribed standards for most facets of prison life.
Standard Minimum Rules has been set out by the United Nations for the treatment of prisoners. These standards are generally what is approved worldwide as good practice and principle in the management of penal institution and treatment of prisoners. The standards generally provide for the following; separation of criminals according to categories, accommodation, education and recreation, medical services. Prisoners are to be separated using various criteria for example, adults and juveniles, criminal and civil offenders, convicted and untried prisoners and men and women imprisoned in separate institution (United Nations, 2016). A prisoner is entitled to a cell overnight and communal cells should only house prisoners who have been carefully chosen. All facilities should meet the following requirements health, ventilation, sanitary facilities, lighting and floor space. Further education should be made available to all prisoners and young and illiterate prisoners schooled. Recreational and cultural activities should also be available to all prisoners (United Nations, 2016).
Many prison systems worldwide are a in a state of crisis and United Kingdom is not an exception. The reality is many penal systems are not only far from the international standards, but they also risk undermining the crucial purpose of a sentence of imprisonment. Prison Crisis is a multidimensional issue therefore it manifest itself in various ways such as; overcrowding, understaffing, bad conditions, riots and disorder (Cavadino, Dignan, & Mair, 2013).
Punishment is the intentional act of inflicting harm pain and suffering on another person maybe in response to an illegal act. Punishment is believed to purge criminal of his guilt through suffering therefore preventing the prisoner from benefiting from the committed crime .The idea of intentionally inflicting pain and suffering to humans raises the question of justification of punishment. Justification of punishment can be approached in three different ways; philosophies that justify punishment as a way of preventing future offending, philosophies focusing to the actual offence and philosophies that insist that punishment can never be morally or politically justified ( Scott & Flynn, 2014).
When dealing with future crimes, the following measures can be put in place reformative or rehabilitative form of punishment, individual and general deterrence, prevention, protection and incapacitation, can be used. Reformative punishment aims to change an individual by attempting to train, teach, re-educate or by instilling a new morality ( Scott & Flynn, 2014). Rehabilitation on the other side tempts to restore individuals to the state they were in before committing the crime. However there are two types of rehabilitation: a social model which seeks to address background factors which are thought to have a hand in committing crime, these factors may include lack of education, work and training; the other type is the medical model which assumes that a crime occurred as a result of the offender being mentally physically or morally degraded.
The justification of deterrence as a form of punishment is based on utilitarianism which is a political and moral philosophy that puts emphasis on developing social policies that maximize the good and minimize the bad. This philosophy promotes a system of punishment that discourages and deters offending behaviors ( Scott & Flynn, 2014). Deterrence discourages future offenses in that crimes are made less lucrative by increasing the harshness of punishment proportionally as the seriousness of the crime. There are two main concerns concerning deterrence and they include individual and general deterrence. In Individual deterrence, the offender experiences the direct impact of the punishment which is a psychological approach. General deterrence on the contrast is applied on the entire community as a social control method.
Incapacitation is the removal or reduction of the offenders physical capacity of committing crimes in order to protect the public. This justification can lead to elimination of dangerous and persistent offenders. It is also thought by many right wing penologist and politicians to reduce crime rates and also state expenses on crime control as a result it is a politically popular option. Despite the fact that incapacitation is politically popular, it has a number of limitation; the elimination of persistent offenders is a short term solution which is effective for only a few years after which new and younger group of offenders emerge. Incapacitation is based on positivism, risk assessment and prediction. Assessing and making predictions on who is a risk in the society is not an easy task as demonstrated by West and Farrington who undertook an assessment and only got half of their assessment accurate ( Scott & Flynn, 2014).
Denunciation, retribution and just deserts are the various punishments administered to past crimes. The logic behind retribution is, the offender harmed society, therefore the society or the offended victim is entitled to inflict harm to the felon in return ( Scott & Flynn, 2014). Retribution supports equivalence and proportionality; lesser punishments for lesser crimes and greater punishments for greater crimes. Retribution shows that the society disapproves of certain behaviors and that in punishing past crimes, certain behaviors are demonstrates as wrong and are denounced. In the recent, retribution has been made popular through the argument of just desert which is a distributive justification linked to sentencing; Just deserts justifies distribution of punishments. Denunciation discourses the fear that a lesser punishment would depreciate the severity of a crime and therefore foster imitation. Denunciation reaffirms the moral standards of a society and the view that the crime is not tolerated.
Some penologists, however, have challenge the justice of punishment. Penologists such as Thomas Mathiesen have argued that no justification of imprisonment be it rehabilitation, reform, prevention or incapacitation, individual or general deterrence rationalizes the continuing use of imprisonment. Instead, imprisonment needs be understood according to functions that supersede crime control or punishment, both of which falsely permeate the prison with a positive part within the society ( Scott & Flynn, 2014).
Penal crisis is not a new word, for many years Britain media reports have brought to light that overcrowding, rocketing prison population, unrest among inmates and staff, riots and escapes contribute to a deepening and a severe penal crisis. For over 30years, the term crisis has been a common currency in both academic and media account of the penal system (Cavadino, Dignan, & Mair, 2013). In the recent years, there have been many occurrences that support the notion of crisis in the penal system. These occurrences include; twice the prison system found itself without any spare cell space, in 2002, the racist killing of Zahid Mubarek by a fellow convict in Feltham Young offender Institution, the continuous disorder and riots in prisons and the disturbing crimes committed by prisoners released before time from prisons or by those under probation supervision. All these happenings among others are as a result of the rocketing prison population and the ongoing deep ills running through the penal system.
The kind of analysis often encountered by the media is the orthodox account of the penal crisis. In this type of analysis the crisis is viewed as taking place exactly within the prison system and not a crisis of the entire penal system. This analysis sees the immediate cause of crisis as the combination of various types of difficult prisoners, what is referred to as toxic mix of prisoner in insecure and physically poor conditions which can result to explosion. The following factors are pointed by orthodox account as implicated in crisis: the number crisis, overcrowding, bad conditions for both prisoners and prison officers within prison, poor security, unrest among the staff, toxic mix of prisoners and riots. Riots and disorders are the factors that incarnates the state of crisis (Cavadino, Dignan, & Mair, 2013).
Orthodox account seeks to explain the relationship among this factors in the following way: The rocketing prison population is the chief contributor to overcrowding and understaffing, both of which worsen the wanting physical conditions in prison. Inadequate staffing and poor conditions have a bad effect on staff morale, causing unrest which worsens the conditions further. Poor security which contributes to the unstable prison environment is as a result of overcrowding, understaffing, bad conditions and staff unrest. Lastly, toxic mix of prisoners when combined with all the deteriorating conditions sparks the periodic disturbances and riots which are prone in the prison system (Cavadino, Dignan, & Mair, 2013).
The number of prisoners in Wales and England is alarmingly high and also rapidly. At the end of June 2012, there were a total of 86,532 prisoners in English and Welsh with space adequate for only 79,450 inmates this translated to overcrowding by a factor of 9%. As of 2012, the population in the prisons had double to over 80,000 from below 40,000 in 1975. At the end of 2012 many prisons were over populated, 83 prisons out of 134 were overcrowded with most of them having more than as half as prisoners as recommended. Due to overcrowding more than 20000 prisoners are sleeping in pairs in cells meant for a single inmate (Cavadino, Dignan, & Mair, 2013).
The criminal justice system and the penal policy has been primarily responsible for the rising prison numbers. There has been a criminal justice hyperactivity which has seen the government create more than 3000 new criminal offences since1997. Alost half of the newly created offences can attract a prison sentence. This hyperactivity represents an alarming moment of exceptionalism history of the English penal system which calls for immediate and critical reflection. Between 1925 and 1985, only six criminal justice acts were passed in the 60 years period by the successive government (Cayley, 1998).
It is obvious that overcrowding contributes to undesirable physical conditions in prisons. In recent years a number of remand prisoners are kept in more poor conditions in police cells. Other than overcrowding, there are other factors such as old and decaying prisons which contribute to bad conditions in prisons (Cayley, 1998). The issue of inadequate sanitary facilities in British prisons has been there since time immemorial such that it is a cliche. Many prisoners spent long periods locked up in their cells without accessing a toilet hence forced to use chamber pots. However from 1996, all prisoners were entitled to a 24-hour access to toilet facilities, yet it seems that this i...
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