Imprisonment And Methods Of Responding To Crime Criminology Essay

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Prisons do not exist in a vacuum. They exist because society decided that they should be used as a method of responding to crime. In order to better understand the nature of imprisonment, it is first necessary to examine its conceptual basis (punishment), and then consider the various debates, or rather theories, to justify the purpose of prisons. These theoretical discussions are deterrence, retribution, incapacitation, and rehabilitation.

In England and Wales (E&W) imprisonment is an instrument of punishment. A definition of punishment proposed by Garland is "the legal process whereby violators of criminal law are condemned and sanctioned in accordance with specified legal categories and procedures" (Garland 1990: 17). Her Majesty's Prison Service (HMPS) defines punishment in its mission statement as "keeping in custody those committed by the court" (reference) In an attempt to providing an undesirable stimulus or removing the desirable stimulus, "loss of liberty" is a form of punishment that reduces the probability of the behaviour re-occuring. (Lefton 1991) However, it is true that in some cases the recipient does not find punishment painful, or even welcomes it- for example, for some prisoners the pains of deprivation of liberty and separation from family are almost unbearable, where as for others, prison may be a refuge from the pressure and severity of normal life. But even in these cases, punishment is still something imposed: it is an intrusion on the liberty of the person punished. A famous English prison commissioner, Alexander Paterson, asserted that:

It must, however, be clear from the outset to all concerned that it is the sentence of imprisonment, and not the treatment accorded in prison, that constitutes the punishment. Men come to prison as a punishment, not for punishment. (Ruck 1951:23)

It has been argued that that principle does not apply. The coercive punitive element of imprisonment extends beyond the mere deprivation of liberty: not only on the prisoner does imprisonment inflict suffering, typically offender's family who have not been found guilty of crime have also seen to be punished. (Codd 1998) However, according to utilitarian theory (Jeremy Bentham), moral actions are those that produce the "the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people", which illustrates that if punishment does deter, then the pain and unhappiness caused to the offender may be outweighed by the unpleasantness to other people in the future which is prevented.

Retribution justifies punishment on the ground that it is deserved by the offender. This is in some ways the complete antithesis of reductivism which justifies punishment on the ground that it helps to reduce the incidence of crime. Retribution is nothing new, with the best known being the lex talionis of early times, calling for "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a life for a life" (Hudson 1996:38). Retributivism claims that it is in some way morally right to return evil for evil, that two wrongs can somehow make a right. (Bean 1981: 16) However, retribution is seen as a crude formula because it cannot be applied to many of today's' crimes. For instance what punishment ought to be inflicted on a rapist under lex talionis? The failure to inflict the same on the offender as the offender has inflicted on his/her victim has forced retributive tariff to be considerably more lenient than it used to be in Biblical times (reference). Additionally, it follows that the retributivist model looks only at the crime: it makes no allowance for the mental state of the offender or for any mitigating or aggravating circumstances associated with the crime. Retribution is justified as a payment of what is owed; that is, offenders who are punished are "paying their debt to society" (Walker 1991:73) and offenders have a right to go free once they have "paid their debt'. In contrast to utilitarians, retributivists focus their line of reasoning on the offender's just desert (a proportionate punishment) but not the beneficial aspects of punishment.

Another rationale of prisons is to deter. There are two types of deterrence: individual deterrence and general deterrence. The former involves deterring someone who has already offended from reoffending. The latter involves dissuading those who might be tempted from offending at all by way of the punishment administered for a particular offence (Hudson 1996). Becarria expressed his early conception of punishment as deterrence and argued that "the aim of punishment can only be to prevent the criminal committing new crimes against his countrymen and to keep others from doing likewise" (cited in Bean 1981: 30). Michael Howard, who was the Home Secretary in 1993, took a similar position to Beccaria and argued that 'Prison works … it makes many who are tempted to commit crime think twice"- because of people's fear or apprehension of the punishment they may receive if they offend. In support, according to _____ freedom is the most valuable thing for every human being- thus people will do anything to avoid putting that freedom at risk. However, although deterrence theory sounds plausible, it seems not to work too well in practice when considering that: 40.1% of offenders released from prison reconvict within a year. (reference). According to labelling theory punishment has other effects which may cancel out and even outweigh its deterrent effects: catching and punishing offenders 'labels' them as criminals, stigmatising them, and that this process can in various ways make it more difficult for prisoners to conform to a law-abiding life in future.(reference)

Another rationale of prison is to protect the society from criminals. 'Prison works' because 'it ensures that we are protected from murderers, muggers and rapists"- a reference to the reductivist mechanism known as 'incapacitation'. (Howard 1993) According to utilitarian theory, incapacitation of offenders is seen as a good consequence of punishment because offenders are removed from society and they cannot commit further offences which ultimately protects public. Although in some respect this argument is valid, there is a moral objection that it is wrong in principle to punish offenders based on prediction of their future conduct; that is, they ought to be punished for what they have done and not for what they might do in the future. This is because, given the inaccuracies of prediction, a number of persons will suffer incapacitation who would not have committed further crimes if left free.

Contrary to punishment and the elements of punishment, the other purpose of prisons is to rehabilitate. Rehabilitation involves an examination of the offence and the criminal, and a concern for the criminal's social background and punishment (reference). In the context of National Offender Management Service (NOMS) it means "reforming offenders to re-join society, as useful and law-abiding members of the community". Rehabilitation is reinforced by the notion that it can reduce crime by altering the individual's character or behaviour (reference). Rehabilitationist theory regards criminal behaviour as a social disease and sees the reasonable solution as curing that disease through psychological therapy, education and training. Bean (1981: 64) outlines the strengths of the rehabilitation position as being "its emphasis on the personal lives of offenders, its treatment of people as individuals, and its capacity to produce new thinking in an otherwise rigid penal system". (Bean 1981: 54). However, unwarranted assumption that crime is related to disease and that social experts can diagnose that condition is a weakness when considering that treatment programmes are open-ended and do not relate to the offence or to other defined criteria.

Proponents of rehabilitation in punishment argue that punishment should be tailored to fit the offender and their needs. Supporting this notion is the view that offenders ought to be rehabilitated or so reformed so they will not reoffend, and that society ought to provide treatment to an offender. However, utilitarian theory argues that punishment has already got reformative and rehabilitative effects on the offender; as the result of punishment is a change in the offender's values which refrains them from committing further offenses. Utilitarianists criticise the fact that the offender, not being seen as fully responsible for his or her actions, is capable of manipulating the treatment to serve their interest. Another, according to Hudson (1996:29), rehabilitation theory tends to see crime as predetermined by social circumstances rather than a personal choice. It is said that this denies the agency of the offender and arguably treats an offender in a patronising, infantilising way.

As can be seen, there is relative clarity that prisons are not merely places to lock up particular types of offenders for specified periods. However, also, there seems to be relative clarity that there are problems with the functions of prisons- punishment, incapacitation, deterrence, and rehabilitation- when considering reoffending statistics. Statistics

The emerging question is why prisons are not working. Prisons are impacted by developments, trends, and changes that occur with regularity in the larger society (Saunders and Billante 2002). Complex set of changes in politics, economics, social and cultural life have had fundamental influence on the way prisons operate. For instance, in the mid-1990's, escapes from prisons, particularly by highly dangerous offenders, emphasised on improving security. Michael Howard prioritised public protection and thereby played a central role in the introduction of "Prisons Works" philosophy because "It is a deterrent. Criminals fear it. And it takes criminals out of circulation" (cited in Davis 2004;5) This took much of the necessity of tackling prisoners' behaviour and lessened the rehabilitation initiatives which led to a reduction in constructive work with prisoners, and subsequently led to a rise in the prison population. In May 1993 prison population used to be 43,500 but this figure rapidly increased to 60,000 in May 1997. (McGraw, 2005:1) Labour government did little to dispel the prison population but favoured tough regime and introduced harsher sentence outcomes for violent and non-violent offences. As a result, prison population in England and Wales has increased by more than 34,000 over the last ten years. Thus, "while it had taken four decades from 1958 to 1995 for the… Population... to rise by 25,000 'it had taken New Labour 'only eight years to match that 25,000 increase' (McGraw, 2005:1) Such system of harsh system of punishment has shown to have a number of negative effects on prisoners: avoidance or escape, alienation of those punished, aggressiveness, and importantly reproducing punishment behaviour. (Wright 2008) Furthermore, best calculations suggest that incapication effects of imprisonment are only modest largely because most 'criminal careers' are relatively short. By the time offenders are locked away may be about to give up crime. (Green et al 2005) It seems unlikely that incapacitation can provide a general justification for the present practice of imprisonment because "our powers of prediction are simply not up to the job, whether we use impressionistic guesswork, psychological testing, statistical prediction techniques or any other method"

(Ashworth 2005:206) Although, punishment for imaginary crimes in the future might not be essentially wrong for utilitarians, but it is a serious objection for retributivism and human rights theory.

In terms of deterrence, some researchers reported that punishments that are designed as deterrents can increase delinquency. Lipsey (1992, 1995), Vennard et al. (1997: 15) and more generally McGuire (1995, 2002). In support of this, after carrying out a comprehensive review of studies, Beylebeld (1979, cited in Hudson 1996: 23) concluded that;

"… there exists no scientific basis for expecting that a general policy, which does not involve an unacceptable interference with human rights, will do anything to control the crime rate…. Given the present state of knowledge, implementing an official deterrence policy can be no more than a shot in the dark, or a political decision to pacify "public sentiment."

However, in contrast, Tullock's (1974: 109) study on economic and sociological models of deterrence concluded that increasing the frequency or severity of punishment reduces the likelihood of reoffending. Nonetheless, this claim has been invalidated by Blumstein, Cohen, and Nagin (1978:66) and they contended that although the evidence does establish a negative association between crime rates and sanctions, it does not establish the general deterrent effect of sanctions because "negative sanctions can be explained by lower sanctions being the effect and not the cause, of higher crime rates". If that contention is true, it would also invalidate Wright's (2008) claim, who also told that the effectiveness of punishment increases by frequency and immediacy of application. Bachman et al (1992), Cromwell et al (1992), told that potential offenders are more likely to be deterred by the certainty of detection than the prospect of punishment. (Bottoms, 2004: 63-6).

Although once rehabilitation used to dominate our prisons, the idea that prisons are not intended to rehabilitate but solely to punish and protect public retains considerable public and political support. (Saunders and Billante 2002) And this is despite the widely accepted belief that rehabilitation gives the opportunity to harness prisoners' strengths and make amends to their misdemeanours, earn their redemption, and restore their relationship with and their place within society (Maruna and LeBel 2002). Today, many rehabilitative programmes are based on the 'cognitive behavioural' approach, which attempts to alter how offenders think by improving their cognitive and reasoning skills so that they change their attitudes towards breaking the law. Leading empirical reviews of the literature on prison based rehabilitative programmes (Carter, Marques, Lipsey, 1995; Lipsey & Wilson 1998; MacKenzie, 1997) told that the most effective way to reduce offending and re-offending is through education and employment, along with behavioural or cognitive programmes. In support of this, Marques and colleagues (1994) gave an encouraging result by reporting that offenders in their study who volunteered for "treatment" were less likely to re-offend than those who volunteered for "no treatment". It was found that convicted offenders who did not participate in treatment were 8.5 times more likely to be arrested for a violent crime in the first twelve months after release from prison or discharge from parole. Less dramatic but equally encouraging results were reported from Carter (2003); "well-designed, well-run and well-targeted cognitive behavioural programmes can reduce reconviction rates by 5-10 per cent" (cited in Lewis 2005:2). However, although it is true that one of the purposes of imprisonment is to help offenders' "lead a law abiding lives in custody and after-release" (reference) but this quote opens the way for a wide variety of complaints. Measuring the Quality of Prison Life (MQPL 2002) (report commissioned by The Prison Service's Standards Audit Unit Home Office) found that 67.2% of prisoners did not agree that they were being helped to lead a law-abiding life on release in the community. Furthermore, a significant 72% of prisoners disagreed sufficient effort is made to help prisoners stop committing offences when they have been released from custody (Ministry of Justice 2007). Furthermore, rehabilitative interventions have shown to be an economically efficient strategy for reducing re-offending in the community than the simple act of incapacitating people.(reference)

However, literature is also available to confirm that the extent of impact of rehabilitative treatments on offenders remain relatively slight;

Most of the conditions for successful exiting are largely outside the control of correctional services. It may well be that the things that are conducive to change within criminal careers are primarily interpersonal, and thus are beyond the reach of the criminal corrections system. (Meisenhelder 1977:324)

Thus, it follows that rehabilitation can never be guaranteed to work; in support of Meisenhelder (1977), Linden and Perry's review of research studies on the effectiveness of prison education programmes showed that although inmates have made substantial alterations to their behaviour, the changes did not necessarily have an impact on post-release employment and recidivism (cited in Ryan 1990). According to Deppe (1987), success has been limited because of a popular misconception of correctional institutions; assumption that education is the sole answer to prisoners' problems, assumption that offenders are people who turn to crime because of their social problems, and that employment is the ultimate aim of prisons. (cited in Ryan 1990) Thus, it has been proposed that offenders should no longer be treated because we are "operating within the wrong models of crime and of psychological change" (cited in Blackburn 1980) because prisons cannot serve both a deterrent and a rehabilitative function (Tittle 1974). This is because social climate and organisational structure of prisons militate against the effectiveness of rehabilitative programmes. (Tittle 1974 cited in Blackburn 1980).

Nonetheless, it has been told that those who argued 'nothing works' and that 'whatever you do to offenders makes no difference' (Martinson 1974) has destroyed the reformative aim of the penal system by encouraging policy makers and legislators to abandon the idea of rehabilitation as an objective of punishment- not because it had been shown to be true, but more because the disappointment of the high hopes invested in reform led to an over-reaction against the rehabilitative ideal. (reference)

Ruck, S.K(ed) (1951) Paterson on Prisons: Being the Collected Papers of Sir Alexander Paterson. London: Frederick Muller Ltd.

Ashworth (2005: 80-1); Tarling (1993: 154-160); Hagell and Newburn (1994). We

return to the question of 'targeting persistent offenders' in Chapter 11.

The previous work was too assertive and too many overstatements- too many silly errors

More detail on what are the meanings+ forms of---



There is also an urgency of setting the context more clearly.

However, the purpose of prisons is misunderstood and nothing if not uncertain in its outcome (reference). The central question is "Is punishment effective?"- which is highly dependent on what is meant by "punishment" and also as important who the person at the receiving end it.