How Effective really is Prison?

We have all watched movies about prison and the rigorous system it provides to criminals. But regardless of its glorified portrayal, the reality is harsh. A substantial number of people who are “ill-mannered” and have caused disruption to society are kept under one building to keep the country safe and to teach the criminals a lesson. But what exactly is the prison system teaching the inmates? Does being sentenced to prison really help the inmates become better people? Does prison even serve its true purpose?

There are 10.35 million people incarcerated in prisons worldwide. The very purpose of rehabilitation of prisoners is defeated when prison staff beat them up, lock and even starve them. Most prisoners have gone through intense mental and physical harm and trauma in their lives. World’s leading psychologists have long agreed that confining humans in cages with minimal or no human interaction is unimaginably damaging to one’s long-term mental health. As a result, once released, the chances of them recommitting the crime are higher. 

A prison inmate is four times more likely to commit suicide than the general population. Research has shown that when a child loses their mother or father to prison, they are many times more likely to commit a crime themselves. Gangs are formed in prisons, drugs are dealt, prison crimes are committed, inmates teach each other different techniques of committing crimes and better ways to get away with it.

You may think that once a prisoner is released, all their problems magically disappear. However, once released, they receive little or no support from family and friends. Additionally, they find it extremely difficult to get used to the normal lifestyle. As a result, they often resort to their previous habits and addictions. It is, without a doubt, the responsibility of the prison system to teach inmates how to lead a normal life, provide job opportunities and most importantly, ensure that family support is invariable. 

Norway has an incarceration rate of 75 per 100,000 people, one of the lowest in the world. In Norway once a prisoner is released, they actually stay out. Norway’s crime rates have been going down every year and so is their prison population. So clearly, the criminal justice system is doing something right.

The Norwegian prison system believes in the concept of ‘Restorative Justice’, which aims to repair the harm caused by the crime, rather than punishing the criminal. Instead of locking inmates in segregated pigeonholes, inmates are treated like normal people. Each inmate is provided a separate room, with a hygienic space, open windows, a flat-screen TV, shower and sufficient storage space. They also have the provision of educational and job opportunities inside prison, which trains them to be assets in society. 

So if there is a better, humane and effective alternative of prisons, why not adopt it?

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