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Criminology Essays - Crime, Punishment, and Life in Prison

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 1877 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Crime, Punishment, and Life in Prison

Definitions of prison:

A place confinement of persons in lawful detention, especially persons convicted of crimes

A place or condition of confinement or forcible restraint

A state of imprisonment or captivity Get help with your essay from our expert essay writers...

Why do many people end up in a prison cell?

There is no straight answer to this question. There are many reasons why there are so

many prisoners in the world today, and to each crime there is a motive. This could be

drug related, money related, gang related, marital breakdown or even from a person

that has suffered mental and physical abuse in the past. The only person that knows

why a crime is committed is the criminal him/her self. As much as we try to

understand how a criminals mind works, we can never be sure, but mostly relates to

violence, as Michel Foucault says: 'All human behavior is scheduled and programmed

through rationality. There is a logic of institutions and in behavior and in political

relations. In even the most violent ones there is a rationality. What is most dangerous

in violence is its rationality. Of course violence itself is terrible. But the deepest root

of violence and its permanence come out of the form of the rationality we use. The

idea had been that if we live in the world of reason, we can get rid of violence. This is

quite wrong. Between violence and rationality there is no incompatibility.' He tries to

explain that even though there is so much violence in world today, it can be removed.

Example of how a criminal is infiltrated to be put behind bars

An example of a motive would be the Mafia. Their motives to kill are to earn respect,

to control areas, to become a major force in the world, and to own as much as they

can. An example of how mafia are in prison is of Joseph Pistone AKA Donnie

Brasco. Joseph Pistone was an undercover FBI agent that infiltrated the Mafia, which

led to over 200 indictments and over 100 convictions. It also meant that even though

his mission was over, Joe Pistone never again became Joe Pistone due to the $500,000

price tag that the inmates had put on his life(taken from the novel my life in the

Mafia). Even behind bars, the Mafia inmates still have a powerful impact on society.

There are many other organisations which have members behind bars that still

manage to operate with the outside world. As money talks, this could have something

to do with Police either being bribed, or too afraid for their lives.

Our views on life in prison and injustice

The way that society view life in prison is influenced through movies and through

reality TV shows e.g. programmes on reality TV and bravo. Movies only

show the viewer what they want to see. Many movies about prison have no care to

show the viewer how prison is really like. For example The movie Mean machine.

The movie shows that the life of a prisoner is not even punishment. Yes they are

being watched everyday, but its shows that they have the liberty to do whatever they

please. In some ways it does portray the life of criminal gangs i.e. Mafia. Triads etc,

but it does not meant that every inmate lives like this. In some cases, the legal system

really lets the victims down. An example of this would be the death of Jamie Bulger.

2 year old Jamie Bulger was kidnapped at a shopping mall by Robert Thompson and

Jon Venables, both aged 10. they brutally murdered him. Even thought they were

children, their sentencing was not a fair hearing. In prison, they have used around 2

million pounds of taxpayers money, enjoying the luxuries that many people cannot

afford. They have had their names changed, education paid for etc. If this is the life of

a criminal then that could be a reason there are so many prisoners- an easy life behind


Many prisoners do show some compassion. For example a paedophile or child killer

does not usually get any sympathy from inmates. For example, Ian Huntley was too

afraid to leave his cell due to the threats made to him about his crime. this led to

attempted suicide.

A prisoner longs for the things that he/she had on the outside, and sometimes the only

way to achieve this is by joining a prison organisation and doing the things that

change their lives. Quote by Eldridge cleaver ““In prison, those things withheld from

and denied to the prisoner become precisely what he wants most of all.”

There are many prisoners that write an autobiography of life in prison to tell the

society today how prison life is and is it really as cool as the movies make it out to be

e.g. Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams.

Has the way that prisoners live their lives today behind bars made them less fearful of officials, causing many to carry on with crimes?

I believe that a prisoner’s life has changed due to technology and due to the fact that

they do not live like prisoners any more. 24 Surveillance means that prisoners are

being watched throughout the day, but when a camera is not on them, anything

happens. A prisoner only needs a few seconds to commit a crime, and most never get

caught due to surveillance on other prisoners or distractions. This is mainly due to

gang warfare, mainly between different races. In prison, gang leaders demand respect

and will usually stop at nothing to get it. An example of Gang warfare would be the 6

major prison gangs that are nationally recognised in the USA:

  • Neta-Puerto Rican/American/Hispanic gang
  • Aryan Brotherhood- Caucasian gang
  • Black Guerrilla Family- Black gang
  • Mexican Mafia- Latin/Hispanic
  • La Nuestra Familia- Mexican/American
  • Texas Syndicate- Mexican American

These gangs cause chaos among prisons in America. It is mainly race against race. An

example of this is the breakout that happened on 14th February 2006, where a race riot

broke out in a California prison involving more than 400 hundred inmates, with

around 20,000 continuing in prisons around the country. These riots were controlled

by a Mexican gang leader who ordered an attack on blacks. This shows what an

impact one man can have on hundreds. It also shows that even though modern

technology is being used, there is still a way around it. 1 inmate died and many

hundred injured.

However saying this, there is evidences which show that at least one gang leader

had seen the error of his ways. This would be Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams.

He was the Co-founder of the Crips gang La, and realised after 16 years on death row

that prison life is no life. He set out to make youth understand what kind of life that

crime leads up to and wrote a book about it called ‘Life in Prison’ which tells us of

how he lives his life behind bars. His work to end gang warfare within youth earned

him a Nobel peace prize.

‘My greatest hope is that the lessons the stories offer will help you make better

choices than I did.’ These are words he uses to warn youth not to follow in his

footsteps. He wrote numerous letters to youth, explaining to them not to turn their

lives to crime but to, “Learn about computer technology, politics and the sciences.”

He also made an apology to the youth of the United States and Africa for what the

creating the gang saying that he was no longer “dys-educated" (disease educated).

I was his mission to warn and deter youth away from crime, and it earned him

nominations for the Nobel peace prize, as well as a motion picture which was made

about his life. Unfortunately, and against much protest, he was sadly executed by

lethal injection in 2005. It shows that even though a man can influence so many lives

for the good, he will always pay for his past.

How is technology used by/for Criminals?

Due to modern day technology, many criminals are using this technology to their

advantage to commit sophisticated crimes. A technology related crime today would be

the credit card scam; chat rooms, or receiving person’s details through the

internet. The internet is a one of the most ways that crimes are committed. These are

through chartrooms- where many paedophiles lure youth through lies and deceit,

pornography, hacking into another’s computer and offensive emails to name some.

A lot of work goes into protecting underage youth from being seduced in a chartroom

by a paedophile. No matter how much can be tried, the problem never goes away due

to the rapid development and progression of technology today. We are shown about

prison life through movies, documentaries, and websites. These influence our lives on

what prison life is really like, and that’s how close we will get to that unless we

become criminals ourselves.

Due to the modern day technology, a prisoner can be monitored 24 hours a day

through surveillance. This makes it easier for the guards. It does however invades an

inmates privacy, but to maintain order and any corruption, this has to be done. Many

released prisoners have computer chips or electronic tags on them so that they are

monitored and located all the time. I believe that this is a very good system, as it does

not show leniency to those that have escaped prison, but no the punishment.

I believe that through the ages and due to economic changes and technology, prison

life has become too easy. Today, a prisoner is given too much leniency. The reason

being is that while inside many prisoners would like to change their lives around, but

many also use it as an advantage to live a life of luxury. I believe that this is wrong as

there are so many honest people in the world that cannot afford to live the life that

prisoners can afford to in the modern day which could be a reason why criminals

believe that prison is not necessarily a terrible place it used to be.



The biography of Eldridge Cleaver


Redemption- Motion picture

Michael Foucault- truth is the future



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