Do Prisons Rehabilitate?
In this essay, I shall be focusing on the whether or Prisons rehabilitate offenders. I will
do this by focusing mainly on the Prison Service in England & Wales, the reason for
this, being that the data and statistics for England & Wales are easier to obtain than
that of other countries. The main information I will be referring to will be the rates of
conviction, types of imprisonment, types of non-custodial sentences. Also I will
explore some of the current methods of offender rehabilitation.
Her Majesty’s Prison Service is composed of two main types of prisons, they are open
and closed prisons. Following the Mountbatten Report (1965) Prisoners were placed
into security categories, ranging from category A (high risk prisoner - escape would
pose a serious risk to the public or state) to category D (low risk prisoner - can be
trusted in open prison conditions).
Prisons have four major purposes, they are; retribution, incapacitation, deterrence and
rehabilitation. Retribution means punishment for crimes against society. Prisons serve
to deprive criminals of their freedom is a way of making them pay a debt to society for
their crimes. Incapacitation refers to the removal of criminals from society so that they
can no longer harm innocent people. Deterrence means the prevention of future crime,
it is hoped that bye imprisoning a criminal, it deters them from committing the crime
again and also deters others from committing crime. Rehabilitation refers to activities
designed to change criminals into law abiding citizens, and may include providing
educational courses in prison, teaching job skills and offering counselling with a
psychologist or social worker. Over many years the focus of the prison service has
switched between the four purposes, therefore at different times in history the
importance of rehabilitation has fluctuated.
“Her Majesty’s Prison Service serves the public by keeping in custody those
committed by the courts. Our duty is to look after them with humanity and help them
lead law-abiding and useful lives in custody and after release.”
The above statement of purpose is that of Her Majesty’s Prison Service. As can be
seen from the statement, there seems to be a focus on incapacitation and rehabilitation.
Over many years, people’s attitude towards how to deal with prisoners has changed,
this was reflected by the Gladstone Report in 1895 which said that ‘we start from the
principle that prison treatment should have as its primary and concurrent objects,
deterrence and reformation’.
In general, it would be fair to say that the majority of people in England and Wales
would agree with the statement that prisons are not working. The reason for this is
that on average 50% of prisoners within 2 years of release will reoffend. Hence this
shows that prisons do not rehabilitate everyone who passes through them, Norman
Brennan is quoted below saying that it is not...