Almost all nations and cultures have made laws to protect their citizens. From the early years and over the decades these laws have been kept in force to prevent the societies from experiencing situations of anarchy. Different punishment has been provided for in different countries to prevent its people from adopting a path and practice of criminal activities. The world of today is characterized by the presence of criminals who are brought to book and punished in a variety of ways depending on the culture and values of any country or society.
Prisoners have been locked up in prisons and meted out with terms that include punishment by way of a rigorous regimen of hard labor while undergoing the term as also milder ones that may include a stint in reformatory homes. Historically punishments have ranged from corporal punishment to death penalty, Several countries have for long been awarding the death penalty for committing heinous crimes that were executed in several forms that included, hanging, guillotine, by firing squad, lynching and now electric chair. The Babylonian Code of Hammurabi is the oldest record available to ascertain that a egal system existed to award punishment in the Middle East.
Western countries were influenced by and followed the laws enacted in ancient Rome whereby each city had a court that worked under the Law of Twelve Tables so as to protect citizens and to make the rulers and governments effective. The Justinian Code is considered to be the most logical and effective legal system that was most effective in ancient times whereby punishment was meted out by the process of Law. In due course people began to realize the value of a legal system that protected citizens and each country began to appoint heriffs to deal with punishments and the justice system became a major part of society although they were never fool proof and were always characterized by shortcomings that put a question mark on the efficiency of the judiciary. In ancient times the justice and reform system was often misused when criminals were hung on crosses, sometimes tortured to death or placed in dungeons to die.
Those citizens who protested were also treated as criminals and tortured or put behind bars. It was during this time, in the 19th century and mainly in the Roman Empire that civil justice was effectively implemented nd more prisons were built to punish criminals humanely. This soon had effect on the rest of the world and with the emergence of the modern world more prisons were built and departments set up to manage them effectively. With the widespread maturing of the legal system over the decades, more and more criminals were brought to book and the law abiding citizens heaved a sigh of relief especially during the time of the Queen of Britain at the turn of the 19th century.
Under the new system the criminal was given an opportunity to prove himself innocent and the overnment had to prove a person to be guilty of crime within the prevailing provisions of law, before he could be sentenced to a term of punishment and imprisonment. Although capital punishment continued to prevail but it was awarded in the rarest of rare cases. Over the years with the influence of Human Rights Organizations and Civil Rights Movements, the trend has set in to rather reform the wrong doers than to award extreme penalties by giving sentenced criminals opportunities to amend themselves and to come back within the mainstream of society.
Under the system convicts are put on probation or parole under the watchful eyes of probation officers appointed by courts to ensure that such people remain disciplined and strictly follow the code of conduct as outlined by the court. The view of punishment taken by society has changed dramatically over the years. Initially punishment comprised of physical torture, maiming, death by burning, hard labor, deprivation of food adequate clothing and shelter, but attitudes of the society have changed now and the belief is to punish by way of imprisonment of varying periods epending on the severity of the crime.
Imprisonment today is considered punishment for one’s wrong doings, which is also consistent with the society’s objective of keeping such people aloof until they are reformed to lead a normal life within society. To insist that a person is sent to prison so that he is punished is wrong in today’s context since after he completes his term he has the justification to return to his old ways. Hence prison authorities today have a duty to fulfill by way of reforming the convict during his term so as to transform him into a more responsible citizen.
It is for this reason that in most countries modern society is characterized by a prison and punishment system that strongly believes that the most effective form of punishment is to deprive the convict of his freedom until he is reformed. In this context the composition and diversity of prison population in America has been examined and found that presently over two million people are in American prisons.
This does indicate that modern society has now been characterized by a pattern, which clearly indicates that the government is duty bound to ensure freedom to criminals once their 4 rison terms are over and that they gel back into society with a tag of respect and positive aspirations. The changing attitudes and trends have seen a constant inflow of inmates in the Federal, State and local prisons. The Federal government held a majority of 63% of the inmates while local municipal and county jails held 30%, and the remaining being accounted for in other prisons.. Most states have been experiencing a 5% increase in the number of inmates over the last three years. Private prisons held about 86626 prisoners which accounts for about 7% of the inmates in American prison.
A private prison is a place in which convicts are physically detained by a private organization for profit at the instance of the legal authorities. These companies enter into an agreement with the federal government to take care of and reform and motivate prisoners and claim from them a fixed fee amount per prisoner. There are about 264 private prisons/correctional facilities in the United States that take care of about 110000 offenders. The concept of private prisons was floated to reduce government expenses in the long run, but the scheme has not worked effectively due to private sector neffectiveness with convicts, and having realized this the federal government is not encouraging further addition to their numbers.
The number of private prisons is now set to decline gradually. Rates of imprisonment have greatly increased due to increase in the rate of criminal offences, which is considered a consequence of the fast track development that is taking place in the modern world. More delinquencies resulting from human inadequacies to tolerate inequalities have resulted in people taking the course first towards minor crimes and then graduating to bigger ones and then ultimately falling into legal traps that lead to their conviction and further imprisonment. In America imprisonment is the most common sentence in legislation for serious offences in terms of dealing with criminal activities, which explains the high number of prisoners in jails.
Only effective and well targeted correction measures and programs can reduce criminal offending and over time there is good reason to target investment in preventive approaches for the betterment of those undergoing prison sentences. As discussed earlier, in the modern world the biggest punishment for a criminal is to urtail his freedom for the duration of his sentence and during this time it is the duty of the jail administration to make him undergo a rigorous regimen of correction and transformation into a more responsible and law abiding citizen. The American government has an arrangement in place whereby all jail administrators are to undergo a training program to specialize in dealing with and reforming convicts and to encourage them in displaying their creativity and interests so that when their prison term is over they can lead the life style that is in keeping with that of a responsible and respectable citizen.
The American judicial and correction system is such that it is considered to be one of the most liberal in terms of providing guarantees of human rights and opportunities for misguided people to reform themselves. There are several government sponsored programs that provide for opportunities for such people to reestablish themselves for a better means of livelihood. The punishment part for their wrong doings gets over the moment they finish with the duration of their prison sentence and after that they can look forward to a happier life free of the stigma that attaches to a person of such background.
Courtney from Study Moose
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