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Should Prisons Rehabilitate or Punish?

In this essay, I will focus on whether law offenders sent to prison should be rehabilitated, punished or both. In my opinion, I have a fair bias view towards punishing the criminal as I feel that people do not have to be deviant yet some chose to be; however, I will discuss both usefulness of rehabilitation and the disadvantages of this. With doing research for this essay I noticed that the majority of crimes were committed by the poorest of society (tend to be more of the unemployed council house families) and such crimes committed by this part of society is frowned upon, yet a crime committed by someone higher in the social hierarchy is most uncommon (yet it does happen perhaps it’s not publicised as much due to the whole Marxist theory of the bourgeoisie exploiting the people below).

The work of Clarke and Mayhew can help support this idea because they believed that delinquency is the results of choice. With this in mind, this theory from Clarke and Mayhew is an excellent perception of how crime is committed and is one reason why I think prisons should be punished as offenders should not be allowed a second chance. I feel that the crimes committed which causes any inconvenience to other humans such as murder, G.B.H, rape and stealing from others should result in capital punishment however as capital punishment is not used nowadays in the united kingdom I feel that criminals committing such crimes should be locked up with no luxuries and should not even be allowed such privileges as exercise.

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Attached to this essay is an article from the BBC which shows the increase in the number of prison suicides, which can indicate that life in prison may be quite underprivileged such as poor cell conditions and lack of authority (By this I mean other prisoners can perhaps manipulate weaker prisoners into unnecessary scenarios like suicide) The statistics show that 70 people have committed suicide this year in prison which is a lot of prison deaths. Such statistics could aid the production of rehabilitation as if so many people are committing suicide a year, then perhaps something should be done about this by introducing such activities to halt prison deaths and perhaps surveillance prisoners in order to track and monitor their actions.

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A problem trying to rehabilitate a criminal and perhaps one of the reasons why he/she has been placed in jail in the first place could be down to sanitation. Sanitation means that the individual has problems with their existence and other people cannot tell the individual something if the person does not want to know. Furthermore, if prisoners feel this way this could lead to suicide and you cannot help or change someone if they don’t want to change. A functionalist may see prison as a place to rehabilitate others so that they can be placed back into the working hierarchy when they have finished their time in prison. They could also view prison as a way of dealing with criminals which helps society as once a person is arrested and sentenced to jail; they are no longer a threat to the outside world for the time being (but could be dangerous inside the prison).

This again could lead to a subculture in prison that could lead to stronger criminals or criminals with a great deal of experience in prisons having the authority over new inmates resulting in a Marxist style of society in prison in which the experienced prisoners exploit the weaker prisoners. Looking at this from a financial perspective, most, if not all of the public would be fazed if they knew their taxes were going to help criminals “rehabilitate”. In a way, with free education provided by the government, there is no way anyone can argue they didn’t have a chance in life (unless in extreme circumstances) and the majority of criminals have had the chance at some point to educate themselves but have opted for the easier option by not working. In some ways, prison could seem to be “fun” in the sense that reports indicate that prisoners are able to watch television in their cells, play pool or snooker and even have a chance at a free education.

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This can be deemed as unfair as although criminals are being punished in the sense of limited freedom, we conformists have to shell out on taxes only to be funding for criminals to watch television and be nourished. In conclusion, I think that all prisoners should receive counselling as a way to deal with their problems and past experiences as not helping prisoners could lead them to re-committing the crimes once their time in jail has finished. This could also be used to support the fact that prisoners should be rehabilitated once they have finished their spell in jail; if no one will employ them due to previous convictions, then they may feel it’s necessary to commit more crimes in order to have money to support them.

Again financing rehabilitation will have to be taken from some methods which will most likely result in taxes unless it’s funded through an organisation or voluntary work through interactionalism counsellors, who may decide to aid prisoners as they feel they would like to play some part in helping prisoners conform. If we our living in a post-modern world then the theory “anything goes” would justify that there may be fewer criminals in prison because justice may not always prevail. Furthermore, the best option available I feel would be to find a suitable balance between rehabilitating and punishing, as this would offer an incentive not to commit crimes if the punishment was severe resulting in the prisoner never wanting to be a non-conformist; and rehabilitating them allows them to “better” themselves by educating themselves and learning about responsibility.

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Should Prisons Rehabilitate or Punish?. (2021, Jun 28). Retrieved May 27, 2022, from