Prisons are overcrowded, expensive, bad for human rights and are increasing the incivilities. So maybe it is time to talk about it here 🙂
To get to the bottom of any problem, the most important thing is to understand it. And other than prisons being expensive, prisons are also a crime school. An innocent person in prison becomes a criminal, and criminal stays a criminal. The cruelest and the strongest one is the one who is in charge; peaceful guys have a bad future ahead of them once in prison. Whatever the values are outside the prison, they are canceled once a person is imprisoned. And prison is one big mixture of people; no matter what we did wrong, as long as we did something illegal, we are locked up with other criminals.
The researchers and plain logic show that prisons do not reduce incivilities, they actually increase them. The more prisons we build, the more prisoners and crime we have. We lock them away for some time, but we don’t help them, so once they are out, they go back to things they know, which is the crime for most of them.
When it comes to human rights, it is pretty obvious. A lot of human rights that prisoners should have are not really there. Such as the right to dignity and freedom, or to be treated with respect at all times. They shouldn’t be tortured, humiliated or punished, they should have good food, water, clothing, private toilet, proper medical care, they should feel safe at all times and it should be taken care of their safety at all times.
Why do we even have prisons? Because we are afraid of criminals, that is one. And it is normal, we are afraid for ourselves, children, family and friends, we don’t want criminals around. But even bigger and sadder reason is revenge. We want to see them pay for what they did, we want to see them suffer, get hurt and feel exactly how they made us (or other people) feel. An eye for an eye. But are we any better than they are if we do that?
Who do we put in prison? Everybody who did something against the law. So criminals. But we forget that those criminals are firstly and most importantly humans. They are people just like we are, with feelings, needs, with family and friends, maybe even a dog.
These people did something wrong, but why? The biggest problem we came up with is because they are (or are feeling) excluded from the society. All the other problems and reasons are secondary. They might have been neglected as children, didn’t get education, love, friends, home and as adults, they are still (or newly) excluded. Maybe they were or still are poor, have mental issues, were tortured, never had a real social connection, belong to a minority. Maybe they don’t know how to deal with their feelings, how to make friends, how to find work, where to turn to for help. Maybe they feel like nobody cares what happens to them. We are all social beings and we need social contacts. When we lose that we are also losing a part of our humanity.
This is why we should try to keep them in the society or try to include them as much as possible to the community and not through them away. Because by doing what we are doing today we are just increasing the problems that caused the criminal activity in the first place.
I do agree that something has to be done, we cannot just let them do whatever they please. And there are alternatives to prisons.
– Open air prisons: prisoners work outside, maybe a farm or building something (they learn new skills and have something to show for at the end of the day and imprisonment).
– House arrest: being held at home, the police is checking up on you, you are with your family in your own comfort zone.
– Open ward: prisoners can go out during the day, look for work, go to school… And the results are good: prisoners who can go out and move more freely, they present minimal risk to commit a crime. This is not a theory, this exists and it is proving to be more efficient than “traditional” prisons.
– Referral to an attendance center: you can sleep at home and every morning you come back to prison.
– Suspended or deferred sentence: you do not go to prison now, but next time you do something, you go to prison and both of your punishments combine.
– Probation and judicial supervision: earlier release from prison and supervision after being realized
– Confiscation or an expropriation order: the state can take your money, goods or property if they can prove that you got it thanks to your illegal activity.
– Restitution to the victim or a compensation order: payback, come up with a plan to make it up to the victim.
– A community service order: working, volunteering to do something good for the community.
– Status penalties: you can no longer be a doctor, priest, lawyer, politician, teacher, pharmacist if you did something to mess it (intentional murder or inadequate treatment of patients, raping and any kind of abuse…)
– Economic sanctions and monetary penalties, such as fines and day-fines: day-fines mean you have to pay a certain percentage of your daily income, like 2% – this way we avoid rich people not going to prison because they can pay and poor have to.
– Conditional discharge: if you do this, we do not charge you (if you pay back, if you do community work, if you fix what you broke, if you stop dealing drugs, if you get help with your addiction)
– Verbal sanctions, such as admonition, and warning: basically telling people not do that anymore and to tell him what his actions caused, how he can improve.
What can we do today? Firstly, we should try to change the way we think. Instead of being afraid and wanting revenge, we could try to understand them. Try to help them and be there to offer them guidance when they need it. And try to keep them in the society as much as we can instead of locking them up. Maybe we could get inspired from how we teach children: being patient, be a positive role model, offer them guidance but constant surveillance, rewarding the good and not punishing the bad. And maybe this way we could create a bit better society than it is today. Because once we can accept that nobody perfect, we can cut some slack to ourselves too and allow ourselves to take a chance.
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