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History And The Working Of Prisons (Essay Sample)



Prisons and how they work
Prisons are widely known as penitentiary facilities, correctional facilities, remand centers, and detention centers. All the above words carry their varied meanings. The meaning is dependent on what act a person is taken to a prison. Some legal systems give distinct meaning to these terms. One of the legal definitions found in law for prisons is that it is a facility used for forcibly correcting offenders of different offences. These individuals are forcibly confined to these facilities so that they can be denied a variety of their freedoms as a way to correcting them. In this paper, the main objective is to carry out an assessment of how prisons work. The other objective is to carry out a brief history of prisons demonstrating actual data.
When a person is taken to a prison, the main objective is to correct the person. The individual is denied a number of freedoms by prison authorities representing the state. This act is seen as proper punishment for lawbreakers. Every nation puts up prisons as part of a criminal justice system that helps in confining individuals charged or convicted with crimes. Criminals are confined to jail or prison as they attend hearings. The judge determines the kind of punishment to instill depending on constitutional provisions. Some are incarcerated after being found guilty during trial. In other cases, authoritarian regimes use prisons as a political tool to punish political crimes. These forms of punishments are administered in many instances without trial or other legal due processes. The international law is against such use of prisons as it pushes towards fair administration of justice. Prisoners also serve as detaining places for war criminals.
The evolution of prisons
The early developers of prison improvised the philosophy of punishment to create ways that would lend justice to criminals and law offenders. They argued that punishment should involve the infliction of pain. Even so, two groups, those that agreed with the philosophy and those disagreed. Those opposing the theory argued that punishment is a wrong that can be justified if the outcome is of greater good. The first group on the other hand suggests that the individual being punished deserves the punishment awarded to him or her. Main reason for punishment is to make the individuals realize their mistakes and pay for them. This led to two philosophical approaches to punishment. The first approach was retributive rationale (Thompson, 2008: 56).
Retributive rationale
Under this approach, philosophers argued that punishment is not evil. They used the word retribution to mean striking a balance in a wrong through punishment. They created a distinction between revenge and punishment stating that revenge is personal and unnecessary even under consideration of victim's injury, but punishment is impersonal and balanced. Punishment is used when an offence is committed against set rules that are administered by others representing the legal authority (Solinger, 2010: 31). The principle follows two guidelines stating that the society has a right punish offenders, and the second states that the offender has the right to be punished. The assumption that the criminal should be punished by forcing him or her to suffer the consequences of his actions accords them the right of equal citizens. If the person committing an offence is not punished, he or she will be treated as less equal beings in the society (Solinger, 2010: 36).
Utilitarian rationale
Under this theorem, punishment is deemed as an evil thing. Utilitarian has believed that what was good was what benefited many. They argue that even if it is painful to individuals, for as long as the majority benefits from a certain act, the act is defined as good. Under this theorem, punishment is seen as evil; however, if it accomplishes more good than evil, then it is justified. The benefits accrued from punishment are seen to be less than the evil that accrues (Carlson & Garrett, 1999: 110).
In light of the above arguments, society discovered that crime could be curbed. Several societies adopted rehabilitation sighting that it is not punishment. They defined it as internal change of an offender after realizing his or her offences. Arguably, it could be achieved by inflicting pain so that the offender can realize the offences committed. They also argued that apart from inflicting pain, there are other methods that could help rehabilitate a person. Most suggested that self-esteem groups, education, or religion were better tools of correcting mistakes (Carlson & Garrett, 1999: 118).
The imprisonment Philosophy
Prisons began to emerge during the discovery of state as a form of governance. During this era, written language developed facilitating state formation. Laws began to be written in paper so that the society could have official guidelines and principles to follow. The earliest society to create laws was the Hammurabi. They wrote their laws in Babylon. Those who broke these laws were punished to administer vengeance (Alexander, 2012: 31). Other societies eventually adopted punishment as a tool for vengeance during the early civilization era. During this era, imprisonment started taking place for those offenders who could not pay the fines asked as settlement of their crimes. Authorities started to realize that many people could not pay their fines, leading to long periods of imprisonment (Alexander, 2012: 33).
Eventually, a crime was settled by a certain period of imprisonment for those who could not pay fines. Definite time was created for different offences. The need to build dens where criminals could not escape became high. The emergence of prison cells started. The Romans were among the first communities to develop houses that were used to house criminals as prisons. They developed metal cages that could not be broken, basements of public buildings, and quarries. The first roman prison was Mamertine Prison (Alexander, 2012: 51). Ancus Marcius established it in the 640 B.C. During this time, prisoners were punished under very severe conditions such as slavery and forced labor. In Europe, punishment by way of imprisonment also began to take shape. Castles, fortresses, and the basements of public buildings formed good places where cells could be constructed (Alexander, 2012: 52).
Philosophers attribute imprisonment as a very complex phenomenal. The phenomenal not only affects individual freedom, research shows that it creates mental torture and material loss. The prisoner's body is affected because he or she is under the control of others limiting his freedom. Ancient rulers capitalized on the fact that imprisonment resulted in actual physical harm. They saw this as a scare point to others who threatened their reign. They used imprisonment as a tool that would show their power (Selman & Leighton, 2010: 61).
During the 18th century, people began to resist the mode of punishment used by many rulers. Public executions and torture became very unpopular. Many people advocated for reforms in the way punishment was administered. During this era, rulers began searching for ways that their systems could accommodate mass incarceration as a solution. During this era, other methods of punishing criminals emerged such as penal transportation. Eventually, prison reforms were launched (Selman & Leighton, 2010: 66).
John Howard was the first person to launch notable reforms in England and Europe. He was the publisher of ‘The State of the Prison' in 1777. He particularly mentioned that many prisoners were acquitted but were still confined since they lacked jailers' fee. He led to establishment of modern types of prisons. The government solely operated them, and they acknowledged humanity rights of the prisoners (Selman & Leighton, 2010: 69). He proposed rights of the prisoners to include a healthy diet, personal space, and reasonable living conditions. Many embraced his reforms, and he was later honored when the Howard League for Penal Reforms was established (Dow, 2005).
In 1779, the penitentiary Act was passed. Its introduction saw the establishment of such events as solitary confinement, religious instructions, and a labor regime, which proposed a men and women penitentiary. By 1815, magistrates were provided with powers to jail or imprison culprits and jail fees abolished. The evolution continued such that there were schools developed for children born in prison. Those imprisoned began to be trained in different fields and occupations. The main purpose was to make them useful to the community once they were released (Dow, 2005).
Modern prison system theory was first developed in London following the utilitarianism philosophy. Capital punishment had greatly declined necessitating another form of punishment. Incarceration took charge as the best form of correction. The first modern state prison was put up in Millbank in 1816 (Dow, 2005). The prison had a capacity of 1000 inmates. By the year 1824, more than 54 modern prisons had been established to follow the disciplinary doctrine advocated by the SIPD. By 1840, penal transportation as a mode of punishment had declined. Joshua Jebb, a surveyor-general, set up a program of prison buildings and their surroundings. An example of a prison that was made under his program is the Pentonville prison that was opened in 1842. Since then, the main aim of imprisonment has been rehabilitation of criminals (Alexander, 2012: 51).
In the 19th century, capital punishment was regarded as an inappropriate sanction for many crimes. Imprisonment became the best mode of punishing offenders. The birth of state prison became rampant in all parts of the world. Mostly, the cells build were small in size roughly covering a space of 13 feet long, 7 fe...
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