Sunday Morning Live posed the question “Do prisons do more harm than good?". Popular author Benjamin Zephaniah, a former convict, is convinced that prisoners come out full of hatred, wanting revenge and having learnt to commit crime more efficiently from fellow inmates.
I fully agree with Mr. Zephaniah. Today, very little effort is put into getting to the root of the problem and working with prevention of continuous crimes after their release.
Three out of five sentenced to prison for less than 12 months, have returned to a life in criminality within a year from being released.
Naturally convicts that are a physical threat to the public will have to be locked up. But, these cases are a minority of the over 100,000 prisoners in the UK today.
Our prisoners range from drug addicts and people who have failed paying their utility bills to mentally sick people. Some are in serious need of mental or medical treatment. Others could provide fantastic services within the public sector through day jobs.
Not only would this make convicts an asset to society while serving the crime, but it would also keep them integrated in society, and even provide a job to go to once released.
Not the least - they would be away from the “school of crime” other prisoners provide in jail. Surveillance could be solved by wearing an electronic shackle.
Training, treatment and prevention
People might argue that this solution would not offer justice for the victim. But serious offenders guilty of murder, rape or abuse would still be kept away from the public – whether locked up in prison or in mental institution.
We need to start thinking like the developed, civilised society we are. Instead of isolating prisoners, feeding into their feeling of bitterness, anger and quest for revenge we should strive for a constructive punishment with the relevant treatment, training and prevention.
Hopefully this would create more and more cases of former prisoners, when looking back at their sentence, being grateful for having been given a second chance.