The modern penitentiary system is often criticized but, at the same time, prisons remain the major institutions which are used for the punishment of criminals. In actuality, prisons are viewed as the places where socially dangerous criminals can be isolated from the rest of society and it is supposed that they change their lifestyle for better due to the terms they spend in prisons. However, this is exactly where the most serious arguments start. On the one hand, it is argued that prisons are really effective since they guarantee the security of society. On the other hand, there are a lot of sceptics who argue that prisons are absolutely ineffective and, what is more important, they are even dangerous in a way since they deteriorate the personality of a prisoner and undermine his/her social position. It should be said that both positions are reasonable in a way and both positions may be viewed as quite convincing.
Nevertheless, the analysis of the work of prisons can definitely show which point of view is more correct.
First of all, it is necessary to underline that the modern system of criminal justice does not have alternatives that could be effectively applied to prevent criminals from their anti-social activity. At any rate, it is considered to be that due to the functioning of prisons socially dangerous criminals are kept in isolation for the period of time which, according to the existing norms, is sufficient to “correct”¯ his/her behaviour and meets the existing legislation.
At the same time, it is necessary to underline that such an approach to prison and criminals proves the fact of the domination of the idea of punishment over the idea of correction and improvement of criminals, making them change their lifestyle. Obviously, prisons primarily serve to the isolation which is viewed as the most effective measure that can prevent criminals from committing crimes.
On the other hand, the effectiveness of prisons is very doubtful. In this respect, it is necessary to emphasize the fact that the major goal of the criminal justice system and the penitentiary system is not just the punishment of an individual for a crime, but it is rather a correction of an individual’s behaviour and lifestyle in order to stop any anti-social activity. Ideally, prisons are supposed to serve to such a transformation of a criminal due to which he/she could be easily integrated in the normal life of society. However, the actual results of prisons work are quite the contrary. To put it more precisely, prison terms criminals serve in prisons often produce a profound and extremely negative impact on their further social life. In fact, instead of the integration to the normal social life and changing an individual’s behaviour for better, prison terms actually lead to the isolation of an individual even after the release from the prison. In such a way, it is obvious that prisons do not fulfil one of its major functions defined by the modern criminal justice system ”“ the correction and preparation of an individual to the normal social life.
In this respect, it is extremely important to say that prisons have a dubious negative effect. Firstly, prisons do change the attitude of society to an individual. In fact, society traditionally has a lot of biases against people that served their terms in prisons. In other words, people naturally are anxious that people released from prisons may be dangerous and are a serious threat to their life and well-being. Basically, it is the result of the public image of prisons and attitude of the mass audience to them. People often believe that it is only criminals that can be released from prison and, therefore, they are socially dangerous. At the same time, such an attitude of the public to former prisons is apparently the evidence of the ineffectiveness of prisons’ work since society does not feel safe even when people are released from prison.
However, the apprehensions of society are, to a certain extent, justified since prisons really produce a negative impact on an individual. In this respect, it should be said that an individual, being sentenced to a prison term, serves it in the environment of other criminals. Moreover, such environment produces a negative impact on the personality, especially young criminals. In fact, it is possible to estimate that prisons often turn to be places where people acquire new criminal experience, instead of changing their lifestyle.
Thus, it is possible to conclude that prisons do not work. At any rate, they do not work effectively and, instead of the correction of a criminal through punishment and assistance to his/her integration into the normal social life, prisons contribute to the growing isolation of an individual from the rest of society and susceptibility to negative impact of other criminals during the prison term.