Does Imprisonment Work

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Should we abolish our prisons? What are the aims and purposes of criminal sanctions? Criminal Sanctions aim to punish criminals by taking away their freedom. Imprisoning them for a period judged by: the crime they committed. Sanctioning a person means that they are locked up in a centre (jail) taken away from the general populations so they cannot commit any further crimes. The aim of locking them up is to rehabilitate the criminal so that when released they can go back into the community and live a productive, crime free life. A quotation from a policy paper published by the British Government (1988) when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister. It defines three principles of punishment for serious crime: 1. 'Restrictions on the offender's freedom of action - as a punishment' (retribution, incapacitation?); 2 'Action to reduce the risk of further offending' (deterrence, rehabilitation?); and 3. 'Reparation to the community and, where possible, compensation to the victim'. Does imprisonment fulfil those aims and purposes? Studies worldwide have shown that imprisonment does not work in terms of stated objectives. The stated objectives are to reform the criminal. In the majority of cases, the prison population is largely made up of re offenders. Donna King (Smart Justice) described her experience in jail as “Each prison sentence I went through, my crimes got bigger. I started to learn new things about crime.” While the criminal is in prison they cannot commit crimes, however, when released a large number (44% of Victorian prisoners) reoffend, are caught, and jailed again. Society needs to accept that for the vast majority of criminals, there is no magic wand that can be waved to make them see the error of their ways and lead a crime-free life. They are unable - and do not want - to hold down a regular job; they see crime as a way of life, a source of

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