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In the first part of our report we will get involved with the so-called outsiders and their incarceration. According to that, the immigration detention is a policy taken from the immigration authority and detains people who are thought to have illegally entered the country or have visa violations in general.
The outsiders are being held in the immigration detention centres which are mainly the immigration removal centres and removal prisons. These centres aim to educate the immigrants, provide them with health and leisure facilities and therefore to prepare them for acceptance into the wider society. Moreover, some asylum seekers are held in prisons as long as the National, Immigration and Asylum Act in 2002 aimed to prevent the immigrants from disappearing while waiting for claim process. Hence, after a detention up to six months takes place, and if their asylum claim is approved they are free to the wider society, if not, a deportation back to their country takes place.
However, it is remarkable bizarre the fact that these vulnerable individuals are detained into such facilities which are more than clear inadequate to provide them with the help needed. There are numerous debates whether these group of people should be really imprisoned in the first place, as their actions are not injurious to others. Furthermore, there is an alarming rise in self-harming at these centres and it is very important to understand why individuals commit such actions "incidents of self-harm in immigration detention centres rose 73 per cent in the first six months of this year" (The Independent, 2009). What I have understood so far is that there are many proof that detaining asylum seekers in such centres is as bad for their mental health as it is expensive to operate (Over £ 1,200 per week). Additionally, according to the time detained before 'release' I believe that policy makers should address their policies away from injustice and arbitrariness as long as detention can be indefinite.
Equally important to be mentioned is that there are many arguments about overcrowding and inhumane detention conditions. Moreover, Insufficient number of officers causes frequent escapes as long as such facilities are mostly category B Prison Service standard. Thus, riots, racist attacks are very frequent. Overall, I have to argue that I find these detention centres inefficient and inappropriate and as long as these vulnerable individuals are not provided with fairness and understanding I strongly believe that the entire system fails to its main purpose. Maybe a more humane approach towards these people would be more effective than imprison them and punish them mentally and physically.
Continuing our report we will get involved with the young offenders and their incarceration.
As outsiders, youth offenders face a harsh punitive approach. According to that, the custodial sentences for young people between 10-17 year olds can be from 4 months up to two years in the Detention and Training Order. Detention under section 53 for those who committed grave crimes the so called persistent offenders and aged between 10-17 year olds can have indeterminate length. Finally, for those who are aged 18 year olds and over the custodial sentences are same as those for adults. The custodial centres for young people are mainly divided into three categories. The Young Offender Institutions or YOIs, which accommodates young people between the age 15-21 and run by the Prison Service. It has juvenile wings inside the prisons for those under 18s. The Secure Training centres (6 in England) accommodate youths between 10-17 year olds and run by private operators. They have rehabilitative approach and a high level of education. Finally, the Secure Children's Homes which accommodate 10-14 year olds and vulnerable 15-16 year olds boys, and finally 10-16 year old girls. This custodial centre runs by the local authorities. These custodial centre's aim is to help offenders prepare for their return to the wider community.
However, these custodial centres not only fail to successfully address their main purpose, but to make matter worse it enlarges the problem, as instead of rehabilitating these vulnerable individuals it imprisons them in a pathogenic environment in which youths can neither cope, nor comply with. Furthermore, it clearly that prevention of re-offending fails as 76 per cent of young offenders under the age of 21 are reconvicted within two years. Unlike, what it is written on how these centres should operate, the truth is more than hidden. In spite of the youth incarceration must ensure full compliance with the UN Convention on Right of Child 1989, bullying, drug abuse, violence, racism, poor living conditions and sexual abuse lead to suicide and self-harm. Hence, a review of these centres (ex. Onley YOI) made by Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers concludes that these institutions are generally considered to be inappropriate, expensive and at worst unsafe to put children (Zahid Mubarek case).
Moreover, it is interesting that despite Youth Justice Board plans reducing the number of young custodies in reality even if offending by young people has been decreasing in recent years (Cavadino, 2004) and yet, youth offenders continue to contribute significantly to the numbers of crisis in the custodial system. Furthermore, through my reading I concluded that that the image of the young thug often presented by the media is a perennial focus of fear, creating moral panic and this sometimes leads to particularly punitive measures being devised for young people. On the contrary as Cavadino (2004) argued, I strongly believe that our attitudes towards young people in trouble in general, can also be infected with the sentimentality evoked by children generally in our culture, which can lead to less punitive measures (Cavadino, 2004).
To conclude, I insist that criminal sanctions are not an effective way for dealing with social problems such as youth offending. Imprisonment should be the last option especially for those who are 10-16 year olds and are more likely to become victimised or commit suicide/self harm (vulnerable). Ultimately, I hypothesise that the high numbers of suicides and self-harming in Young Offender Institutions are directly connected with assumptions that youth custody centres and prisons in general are totally insufficient and inappropriate environment for young people " ..training prisons, as well as local prisons, feel the strain, with more suicides, poorer resettlement outcomes and in many cases insufficient activity" (BBC news).
In the last part of my report I am going to get involved with the incarceration of the mentally disordered offenders. Mentally disordered people are being incarcerated into Secure Psychiatric Units which are more concerned on rehabilitating the offender rather than punishing him. These units are categorised into high, medium and low security class. Furthermore, they deal with criminals which the traditional prison model cannot manage and thus relieves pressure on prison numbers. What I have found very interesting is that albeit, patients pose a risk to the public (1/3 have committed violent crime) less than 10 per cent of these patients re-offend within two years.
Additionally, during my involvement with the matter I also found that this groups incarceration is more than controversial as long as, the term mental disorder is not that easily defined. Thus, only 1:10 prisoners have severe mental illness and therefore I believe that it is very difficult if not impossible to precisely assess these individuals and decide who must be sent to prison and who to a secure unit. Many of the mentally disordered are admitted to secure units from prisons and have to wait for a space (about 3,500 people detained in secure psychiatric wards). Furthermore, there was an alarming rise 45 per cent of population in high and medium secure units during 1996-2007 and yet, a big number of escapes from hospitals takes place.
On the other hand, I think that escapes takes place because in these facilities it not that much about security but instead, rehabilitating people. However, as in previous groups discussed before, this group is vulnerable in committing suicide and thus I strongly insist that offending is often the symptom of mental illness. As a result, I do not know why these people are being held in prisons and not in therapeutic clinics " ..We must get people with mental health problems out of prison and into treatment" (BBC). However, according to the escapes I suggest we understand that inevitably some prisoners will take profit of the balance needed between risk to the public and a humane mental care system.
Ultimately, in my opinion I have found each group's incarceration mostly inappropriate and inadequate to address serious problems which each group suffers from. Self-harming, suicides, inhumane imprisonment and other ways of treating offenders made me doubt about how these facilities actually rehabilitate people. I would agree that new ways of a more effective and measured approach to policy and strategy must be found if we actually want less crime in a more humane way. Prison and incarceration in general is not a problem we can simply solve by locking up people, so that alternatives to imprisonment must be applied.