Development Of Societies Throughout History Criminology Essay

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The development of societies throughout history, from more primitive forms to more complex forms has resulted also in vast changes in the theory as well as the method of punishment. In primitive societies, punishment was left to individuals wronged or their families. These punishments were vindictive and retributive. Usually the quality or quantity of the punishment would bear no special relation to the gravity of the offence (Foucault, 1977).

With time, the idea of proportionate punishments of which the gravity of the punishment was made to suite that of the crime was advanced, for instance, "an eye for an eye." From this stage developed another system of punishments where individuals were given the authority to punish under the control of the state or the community. With the growth of law and order however, the state took over the primitive function and provided itself with the machinery of justice for the maintenance of public order (Foucault, 1977).

In Africa and in Ghana specifically, until colonization prisons were largely unheard of. People who committed crimes were usually punished by their communities through banishment, flogging, beheading and other such capital punishments. It was not until in the mid 19th century, that the British council of merchants established a harsh network of prisons in forts such as the Cape Coast Castle. These prisons were managed under no particular laws. In 1860 however, the Prisons Ordinance Act was developed to outline regulations for the safekeeping of prisoners. Later ordinances further defined the nature of the country's prison system, which required solitary confinement by night, penal labour and a minimum diet (Owusu, 2012).

The global prison population has skyrocketed in the last three decades with ten million people worldwide now in jails and prisons. The extraordinary increase in the number of people now incarcerated has had tremendous implications for state and national governments dealing with global recession and a range of economic, social and political challenges (Stevenson, 2011). Incarceration rates in the United States are nearly the highest in the world, and are by far the highest of any Western democratic state. The U.S. locks up over 700 people per 100,000, a rate of incarceration that is one of the truly distinguishing characteristics of the American criminal justice system (Clear, 2009).

Even though Ghana still supports the death penalty, in practice there had not been any execution since 1993. In lieu of this, the deprivation of an individual's liberty through imprisonment is perhaps the most severe state sanction available in Ghana, as a result Ghana, like the U.S continues to record increasing levels of inmates in her prisons. As of August 21, 2012 a total number of 13,390 inmates were in custody in the various prisons in the country. Out of this number 13, 134 were males while 226 were females, giving a male to female prisoner ratio of 51:1. A total of 10,423 inmates were convicts, 2,747 on remand with 220 facing trial (Ghana Prison Service, 2012)

People, who commit crimes, it is widely believed, deserve to be punished. Utilitarian ideas about public safety have it that sending people to prison enhances public safety: by incapacitating them, by rehabilitating them, by deterring them and others, and by reinforcing basic social norms about right and wrong (Tonry & Petersilia, 1999).

Globally human beings do not live in isolation. We live in an array of interdependent relationships and networking. Research has consistently shown that incarceration affects the individuals confined, their families and other close associates who are seen as passive victims of incarceration, and by aggregation, the economic and social conditions in their local community. While some research has focused on the individual effects of incarceration and some on community effects, little analysis has attempted to examine how they work together (Watts & Nightingale, 1996).

In Ghana we know precious little about the ripple effects of imprisonment on prisoners' families and the communities from which they come from. This study thus seeks to examine the effects of incarceration on the families and communities of inmates on the premise that incarceration has unintended consequences not only on the incarcerated but their immediate relations, and their communities as well.

1.2 Organisation of the study

The thesis is structured into six chapters. Each chapter addresses certain aspects of the study and it is designed in logical sequence towards achieving the general objective of the research. Chapter one is the introductory chapter comprising of the background to the study, organization of the study, statement of the problem, research questions, research objectives, justification of the study, significance of the study, and scope and study setting of the study. Chapter two presents a thematic review of various literatures on the topic of study. It reviews the state of knowledge on incarceration with the research problem in mind. It aims at ascertaining the extent of the problem identified in chapter one including identifying and narrowing research questions. The review of the state of knowledge on incarceration is expected to provide some methodological and theoretical guidelines for this study and also clarify the identified research problem.

Chapter three presents an examination of the research methods to be used in the collection and analysis of data. Based on the research problem theoretical and methodological constructs are devised to address the research problem. Chapter four also deals with the presentation of results. Significant findings under each research question are identified and discussed.

Chapter five presents a discussion of the study results. In the process contribution of the thesis to the state of knowledge on the unintended consequences of incarceration is discussed. Chapter six is used for the presentation of conclusions and recommendations for policy as well as further research in the area of study.

1.3 Statement of the problem

The problem statement according to Wiersma 'describes the content for the study and it also identifies the general analysis approach' or is the issue that exists in the literature, theory or practice that leads to a need for the study' and when stated effectively should answer the question; Why does this research need to be conducted? (Wiersma1995 cited in Pajares, 2007).

The fundamental reason for setting up prisons is that society finds it necessary to separate and isolate category of persons who flout its laws. Prisons exist therefore to punish individuals who commit crime in anticipation that such punitive measures will deter others from perpetuating it.

Prisons in Ghana like most prisons the world over are established to keep offenders from society and to try and reform them so that these offenders will become useful citizens in society. According to Robert M. Regoli, in the third edition of his book Delinquency in Society, the purpose of punishment is primarily to control and change behavior.

In the popular point of view, prisons are thought of as crime fighting-devices: Exposing offenders to prison reduces crime. This viewpoint began governing penal policy in the early 1970s (Clear, 2009).

Traditionally it has been understood by most Ghanaians that when all criminals are imprisoned, society will be safe, crimes will reduce and the rest of the society will have their peace of mind to undertake their daily activities without any disturbances, fear or troubles. Thus, what the prison system in Ghana has done, with the support of some public opinion is to put offenders in prison, separate from human contact to reduce further crime while they are incarcerated (Agboka, 2008).

Statistics on inmate population in the various prisons in Ghana indicates that, though the number of convicts for the years 2010, 2011 and 2012; that is (13,945, 13,565, and 13,469 respectively) does not show a seemingly increasing trend in the number of inmates, the percentage (23%) of second time offenders and recidivists is alarming. This is a clear indication that one of the rationales of the prison system which is, to serve as a reformation center is not achieving that objective (Ghana Prison Service, 2012).

Because incarceration removes an individual from society, it is expected that ties between offenders and members of their networks will be weakened (Haley et al., 2006 cited in Khan, 2008). Debates about the increased use of incarceration have focused principally on its value in reducing crime rates and intervention strategies have been directed at the incarcerated at the expense of others who are passive victims of incarceration. These discussions have, by and large, ignored the ways in which the heavy use of incarceration affects individuals, families, and communities across prison walls (Clear, 2009). These unforeseen effects of incarceration are subtle and, in some ways modest, but over time they combine to counteract the positive effects of prison. Even though there is paucity of research in relation to incarceration in the Ghanaian literature, the very few available have concentrated on the prison system and the incarcerated to the detriment of the passive victims of incarceration. There is therefore a literature gap as far as the passive victims of incarceration matters. A broader and more complete understanding of the effects of incarceration on persons other than the offender would enable us to understand the limits of using prison as a crime-prevention strategy (Clear, 2009) .An examination of the unintended consequences of incarceration will give us a better perspective of how people other than the incarcerated suffer as a result of incarceration. This research when completed will fill the literature gap as it pertains in Ghana in relation to the passive victims of incarceration.

1.4 Research Questions

For the problem stated above, the study seeks to answer the following specific research questions.

What is the nature and extent of effects of incarceration?

What categories of people are affected when a person is incarcerated?

How are the affected persons able to cope with the situation?

What social support systems are available to families of prisoners while in prison?

1.5 Research Objectives

Given the problem and research questions identified above, the main aim of this study is to have an insight or understanding of the different circumstances of the passive victims of incarceration who in this case are the nuclear families of the incarcerated and how such indirect situations of the passive victims of incarceration could be considered in the re-integration strategies.

Specifically, the study will also seek to:

examine the relationship that existed between families and the incarcerated before incarceration

ascertain the changes that have occurred in the family as a result of incarceration

find out how such changes have affected the lives of families of the incarcerated

find out the coping mechanisms adopted by the families to deal with incarceration

find out the social support systems available to families of incarcerated persons

1.6 Justification of study

In the modern civilized world, scientific research has inevitably become the basic pre-requisite toward the studying and understanding of any social phenomenon. Indeed, when governments and corporate bodies seek to improve upon or enhance the performance of an aspect of their operation, they embark on social and scientific researches upon which concrete decisions are made towards modification and improvement.

Prisons are essential parts of our social system and they play a crucial role in the social life as well as political and economic life of every country. These prisons are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that offenders who find themselves behind bars come out as better and reformed persons beneficial to society. Prisoners in spite of their situation are citizens of the country and the incarceration of a person affects people around him or her. There is therefore the need for effective meaningful strategies and interventions to be put in place to ensure that both the incarcerated and the passive victims of incarceration are put into perspective in relation to efforts at prisoner re-integration.

1.7 Significance of Study

The idea that crime might be a normal part of society seems untenable to many people. Yet it is the major tenant of the functionalist theory of crime. According to Durkheim deviance is not a pathological aberration in the character structure of particular individuals, but rather, it is 'an integral part of all healthy societies. In as much as societies continue to exist, crime will continue to be with us (Hamlin, n.d.). One of the key ways of dealing with criminals by all meaningful societies is incarceration. Punishment, it is often said "Is not meant to destroy but to reform." Prisons must therefore be seen as reformatory centers and not an avenue for the hardening of criminals. Periods of confinement are challenging moments in the lives of inmates, their families and the communities in which they emanate. The challenges posed by incarceration on the families of inmates and the communities from which they come from cannot be underestimated. A search for literature revealed a limited number of studies conducted in this area in Ghana, as such very little is known about the consequences of incarceration on the family and community of the incarcerated. One can anticipate that these unintended consequences as have been documented by studies in other countries (especially the United States) may be the same in Ghana, however without empirical evidence this conclusion cannot be reached, hence the need for an indigenous research such as the one being conduct The study when published will fill the gap in literature in Ghana as far as the effect of incarceration is concerned. It will also provide baseline data and information upon which further studies may be carried out. Findings from the study will again serve as valuable information to policy makers in correctional and reformation institutions to ensure holistic prisoner reformation.

Until a suspect is condemned to life imprisonment or to the death penalty, it is expected that convicts will return to the society after serving their jail terms. It is expedient and imperative that society understands and appreciate the need for ex-convicts to be re-integrated into mainstream society. The research will therefore give an opportunity for the general society to understand and to accept ex-convicts back into the society as well as appreciating measures and policies put in place to ensure effective prisoner re-integration.


1.8 Scope and setting of the study

The unintended consequences of incarceration has many tentacles but for the purpose of this study, it will focus on the immediate family, that is spouses and children of inmates, parents of the incarcerated, the siblings of the incarcerated and the communities from which they emanate.

The area within which the study will be conducted is the city of Kumasi. Kumasi covers an area of 115.4 square miles. As at 2012, the city had a population of 1,989,062. It is a city at the south central part of Ghana 250km (by road) northwest of Accra. Kumasi is approximately 300 miles north of the equator and 100 miles north of the Gulf of Guinea (World Gazetteer, 2012).

The city rose to prominence in 1695 when it became the capital of the Ashanti Confederacy. Kumasi is the second largest city in Ghana and the largest ethnic group is the Asantes. Approximately 80% of the population is Christian and 20% Muslim (World Gazetteer, 2012). The Kumasi Metropolis is chosen as a study area because the metropolis has the second largest prison in Ghana which will provide the researcher with the key informants in the study. The researcher's fair knowledge of the socio- cultural setting of the study area will be an added advantage.

The Kumasi Central Prisons is selected as the main source of key informants to the study since initial familiarization visits revealed that it houses a variety of inmates across geographical as well as crime category within the country. It is hoped that such a variant of inmates will add to the diversity of the research. The choice of the study area was again informed by the proximity of the study site to the researcher.

1.9 Theoretical Foundations

Researchers have employed a variety of theories and conceptual perspectives to explain the unintended consequences of incarceration. Prominent among these include the strain perspective (Merton, 1938: Cloward & Ohlin ,1960) the socialization perspective (Hirschi, 1969) and the stigmatization perspective (Hagan &Pollini, 1990: Hagan,1991) Even though the study will be drawing inspiration from these various perspectives, the major theory underpinning this study is the systems theory with special emphasis on Bowen's family systems theory.

General systems theory was originally proposed by biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy in 1928. Systems theory thus emerged as a synthesis of developments in a variety of disciplinary fields, including the behavioral sciences as well as engineering and management. It is a method of formal analysis in which the object of study is viewed as comprising a series of distinct but interconnected and interdependent components or subsystems as well as the relationship between systems and their environments (Hammond, 2003).

The family systems theory suggests that individuals cannot be understood in isolation from one another, but rather as a part of their respective families and communities. Families are systems of interconnected and interdependent individuals, none of whom can be understood in isolation from the system. The family systems theory as propounded by Bowen has it that, a family is a system in which each member has roles to play and rules to respect. Members of the system are expected to respond to each other in a certain way according to their roles, which is determined by relationship agreements (GenoPro, 2012). Within the boundaries of the system, patterns develop as certain family member's behavior is caused by and causes other family member's behaviors in predictable ways. Maintaining the same pattern of behaviors within a system may lead to balance in the family system, but also to dysfunction.

The incarceration of a family member will definitely lead to changes in the roles of members hence a possible disequilibrium and disturbances in the family system and a push towards a new equilibrium, This new equilibrium as a result of the incarceration of a family member is likely to have unintended consequences on the family and possible malfunctioning of it.

Since individual families constitute societies, the unintended consequences of incarceration on families will invariably transcend to the communities as well.