The prison system is, and always will be, a highly controversial matter. However, with vast numbers of repeat offenders and the continuous increase in overcrowding, the obvious option of ‘lock them up and throw away the key’ may not be the best solution. It seems confusing to me that so many people stand behind a system that punishes an offender by isolating them from the community and significantly damaging their prospects of a functional role in society afterwards, yet expects them to be released as a model citizen. There is no dispute that I, of course, agree with just punishment for any crime committed but I don’t think our current method is sufficient.
It is not the idea of prison that I disagree with. Removing a dangerous individual from society is, at least initially, almost a necessity. However, once incarcerated, I believe the inmates should not be demeaned, perpetually condemned and left to their own devices. Much more intensive therapy is required, as well as a more community-based environment to teach the importance of functional social interaction, skills teaching and education to name a few. The focus should not be on punishment and more on rehabilitation; it is not difficult to understand why so many criminal return to prison if they leave the same as, if not worse than, when they arrived.
That being said, there are also cases that seem to lack appropriate punishment and simultaneously lack rehabilitation. The RSCPA has recently reported a four year high in animal cruelty, with as many as 148 convictions in 2017. However, in these cases the punishments certainly do not fit the crime. For example, a woman and a man who shared a video on social media of them restraining and whipping a pony received an eight-year ban on keeping animals, three- and four-month suspended sentences, respectively, and 120 hours of community service. To me, this feels weak at best. The fact that of those 148 convictions 52 were cautions is both heart-breaking and terrifying. Inhumane and hideous cruelty against animals, such as putting a cat in a bag and beating it to death with a wooden plank, receive little more than a telling off.
Whether these cases are acts of neglect or malice, the behaviour is inexplicable and abnormal. However, no form of education, therapy or aid is given to people with such tendencies. Instead, they receive a slap on the wrist which not only lacks in appropriate punishment but also offers no improvement to the situation. It is apparent that the ownership of any morals is absent in these individuals, so while I disagree with the current prison system, perhaps fear of a more severe, and in my opinion fair, punishment is required. That is, if the government is unwilling to offer any form of guidance or rehabilitation.
How can we expect people to change for the better in prison if they aren’t supported in doing so, especially after they have been released? Further to this, how can we change the wicked behaviour of certain individuals if we aren’t willing to understand their motives and help them? It appears we currently can’t, and until the system is re-evaluated and updated we sadly never will.