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Historical look at corrections systems Essay

Criminal justice refers to the system used by a government to maintain social control, prevent crime, enforce laws and administer justice. Law enforcement (police), the courts and corrections (prisons) are the primary agencies charged with these responsibilities. The discussion contained in this paper is on the corrections as a division in the criminal justice system. World over, the police are invloved in law enforcement. Those who break the law, regarded as offenders, are charged in a court of law and if found guilty are passed over to the corrections.

Corrections, according to (The Wikipedia encyclopedia, n. d. ) Rretrieved March 14, 2007, from http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Prison database, refer to one of the components of the criminal justice system that serves to punish and in many instances rehabilitate criminal offenders. Sentences given to offenders range from probation to serving time in prison, or community corrections program, home confinement, and electronic monitoring. Financial penalties may include fines, forfeiture, and restitution. World over, prisons remain the primary type of institution for housing offenders.

Prison, penitentiary, or correctional facility, Wakipedia encyclopedia says, is a place in which individuals are physically confined or interned, and usually deprived of a range of personal freedoms. The prison, says (The Howard League for Penal Reform n. d. ) History of Prison: Retrieved March 14, 2007, from http://www. howardleague. org/ database, is “just one of a number of sanctions available to the courts to deal with those who commit criminal offences. ” A historical look at corrections systems:

In the 16th and 17 century, according to The Howard League for Penal Reform, sanctions for criminal behaviour tended to be public events which were designed to shame the person and deter others; these included the ducking stool, the pillory, whipping, branding and the stocks. At the time the sentence for many other offences was death. Prison tended to be a place where people were held before their trial or while awaiting punishment. Men and women, boys and girls, debtors and murderers were all held together in local prisons. It was very rarely used as a punishment in its own right.

The correction system, by all standards was quite brutal as after one being convicted, he or she was either subjected to instant punishment such as whipping or even death. Howard League of Penal Reform says that “Evidence suggests that the prisons of this period were badly maintained and often controlled by negligent prison warders. Many people died of diseases like gaol fever, which was a form of typhus. ” Houses of correction were originally part of the machinery of the Poor Law, intended to instil habits of industry through prison labour.

Most of those held in them were petty offenders, vagrants and the disorderly local poor. By the end of the 17th century they were absorbed into the prison system under the control of the local Justices of the Peace. The league points out that although the 18th century has been characterised as the era of the ‘Bloody Code’ there was growing opposition to the death penalty for all but the most serious crimes. Such severe punishment was counter-productive, as jurors were refusing to find thieves guilty of offences, which would lead to their execution.

At this time many jailers were unpaid and they earned extra money by charging prisoners for food, drink, fuel, beds and blankets. Some jailers would put shackles and manacles on prisoners and would charge fees for them to be removed. Many prisoners were bullied by jailers and other prisoners, and would often have to pay a form of protection money. By the mid-18th century imprisonment, with hard labour, was beginning to be seen as a suitable sanction for petty offenders. “Transportation was a much-used method for disposing of convicted people.

Convicts were shipped to the British colonies like America (until the end of the American War of Independence in 1776), Australia, and Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania),” writes the league. But transportation was curtailed at the end of the 18th century. Other sanctions therefore had to be found. The two prominent alternatives were hard labour or incarceration. In 1777, there were condemnations of the prison system as disorganised, barbaric and filthy with calls for reforms including the installation of paid staff, outside inspection, a proper diet and other necessities for prisoners.

Penal reformers also ensured the separation of men and women and that sanitation was improved. Various Acts were also put in place that gave specifications of the measurements for prison cells. In the 19th centruary capital punishment begun being regarded as an inappropriate sanction for many crimes. The shaming sanctions, like the stocks, were regarded as outdated. The 1800’s saw the introduction of new systems and a tightening of the prison regime. The “Silent and Separate Systems” were used either to keep a regime of silence or to keep prisoners in solitary confinement.

The idea being prisoners could not infect each other with criminal ways. These methods were soon criticised with people citing the high incidences of insanity amongst prisoners. Improvements were made in 1815 when an Act was passed to prevent jailers from charging prisoners. The state now paid jailers, while magistrates were given the responsibility of inspecting the jails. By mid-century, imprisonment had replaced capital punishment for most serious offences – except for that of murder. Ideas relating to penal reform with the rehabilitation of offenders were becoming increasingly popular.

The 19th century saw the birth of the state prison. ” This is the period, which also saw prisons being controlled centrally. At this time prison was seen primarily as a means to deter offending. This was a movement away form the reforming ideals of the past. By 1877 all prison staff were salaried and commissioners stressed that staff would be selected on merit alone. In late 1890s, many governments put in place Acts that saw the abolition of hard labour, and established the idea that prison labour should be productive, not least for the prisoners, who should be able to earn their livelihood on release.

In the 20th centruary, the development of the prison system gained momentum. In 1919 prison warders were renamed prison officers. Separate confinement of prisoners was abolished in 1922 and soon over 400 voluntary teachers started work in prisons. Pollock M. Joyceline (Google Book) Prisons Today and Tommorrow , Jones and Bartlett Publishers, (pg 318) says that beginning in the 1960s, mere confinement in prison was no longer viewed as sufficient to correct deviant behavior.

Rehabilitation programes (vocational training, education, counceling, and psychotherapy, work release, furloughs and self improvement activities) were introduced inot prisons that had previously custody as the sole organizational goal. Fundamental to this emphasis on rehabilitation was an expectation that correctional officers should move beyond the comfortable, clearly defined security role and function in the more ambigious role of the highly qualified human service-oriented professional capable of assisting in rehabilitation of the offender, (Pollock M).

Howard League of Penal Reform says that the 1990s have also seen the introduction of prisons which are designed, financed, built and run by private companies. Supporters of privatization argue that it will lead to cheaper, more innovative prisons, with critics arguing that private prisons are flawed both in principle and in practice. Today, correction systems, in many nations, adhere to the fundamental human rights. Prisons today are more civilised in regime and conditions.

Prison officers are involved in administering rewards to prisoners for good behaviour as well as overseeing better prison facilities such as gymnasiums, prison shops, health care and training. In England and Wales running water and toilets are now installed in 98 percent of prison cells. Education, work and programmes to tackle drug addiction, offending behaviour and bullying are now commonplace. Certainly conditions have changed for the better, but these changes should not be confused or considered to be making prisons easy, more tolerable perhaps. Prison is about taking a persons liberty away, doing so is the real punishment.

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