snowyowl wrote:I don't think it's quite that simple. I think prisons' stated purpose was, at one point, to re-educate people and help them become productive members of society again. But it's far too easy to demonize criminals and remove their rights; in the UK at least, incarcerated prisoners can't vote (in defiance, I might add, of the European Court of Human Rights). It's easy to say that it's just a matter of re-educating these people, but the fact of the matter is that a lot of people think of them as evil and deserve to be punished, consciously and/or unconsciously. Oh, and since they can't vote there's no incentive for MPs to improve their conditions; not to mention mistreatment by prison guards and other "unofficial" abuses.
On the flipside, I'm told spending time behind bars does wonders for your street cred, so far from helping people become productive members of society, prison helps push them further into that world.
Maybe Tailsteak's old idea of "double everyone's sentences, but let them work it off by becoming educated" has some merit to it after all.
Prisons' purpose vary immensely depending on place and time - geographically and historically. (Disclaimer : I am not an expert, I've just read a few things.)
The rehabilitation notion has been kicked around here and there in America and England, at least, but generally has collapsed over time due to the same pressures presently in the modern American penal system; overcrowding being the big one. As arrest-happy as the system is these days, historically it's been even worse, and money talks and walks while those without that advantage stay and pray.
There are several difficulties with jumping straight to the threat of execution, one of which is that it's always a bad idea to put someone in a position where they are desperate. At that point the pressures on the society are strong enough to give rise to a whole host of additional problems, and societies can and do buckle under those.
It leads to an interesting chain of thought : if a man can be rehabilitated, should he be? At what point is the cut-off for rehabilitation versus pure punishment, or is there a cut-off point? If we accept that any punishment given is not intended as restitution for a crime (not currently the view held in our legal system here in the States, nor I believe in Canada and the UK but I leave it to the natives of said to correct me on this) but as a means of rehabilitation, then our method of address must change substantially. Parts of Scandinavia do this - Norway in particular has been in the news lately because of it, due to the case of Anders Behring Breivik's mass murders the other month.
However, the criminal system as it presently exists in America is nine parts restitution - hence 'paying one's debt to society' - and one part rehabilitation. The hope is that the criminal will in the course of paying that debt learn that crime does not in fact pay and gain a genuine remorse if they haven't already and go forth and sin no more. That hope is, however, merely a hope, and not contingent upon any part of the procedure; it really only comes into play in some cases of sentencing with a guilty plea in court, where an expression of remorse MAY lessen the sentence. The more horrendous the crime, usually, the less likely that expressions of remorse will have any effect upon the sentence.
So then the question becomes: should we use prison as a punitive system instead of a rehabilitative one? It gets complicated.
It's certainly true - or at least reportedly true, as my information comes from the media, not from personal experience - that prison gives criminals access to criminal services, and by now helps to perpetuate the criminal cycle. However, based on readings of historical literature (fiction and fact), this has only changed in terms of the level of sophistication as to what is available and how organized it is. Criminals always 'networked' to some extent in that fashion, and it makes sense; if you're locked up where the only people you encounter are criminals and warders, that's who you associate with. And that will carry over to resuming life on the 'outside'. If you change the location to exclusive prep schools, the result is the Old Boys' Network or Old Boys' Club. One has fewer tattoos these days than the other, though.
On an unrelated note, this strip has the most compelling argument I've seen so far for Jamie having something like Asperger's. Pursuing the logic chain to the point of risking immediate re-arrest goes being 'abnormal'.