For most of history, imprisoning has not been a punishment in itself, but rather a way to confine criminals until corporal or capital punishment was administered. Only in the 19th century, beginning in Britain, did prisons as known today become commonplace. The modern prison system was born in London. The notion of prisoners being incarcerated as part of their punishment and not simply as a holding state until trial or hanging was at the time revolutionary. This is when prisons had begun to be used as criminal rehabilitation centers. A prison is a place in which people are physically confined and, usually, deprived of a range of personal freedoms. The purpose of prison is to punish offenders and act as a deterrent to those who commit crime. The public, therefore, are protected from those criminals. Rehabilitation is the idea of curing an offender of his or her criminal tendencies, of changing their habits, their outlook and possibly even personality, so as to make them less inclined to commit crimes in the future. It seeks to prevent a person from reoffending by taking away the desire to offend. In the prison context it means readying prisoners to rejoin society, as useful and law-abiding members of the wider community. Criminal rehabilitation works to reduce criminal recidivism.
As the graph below shows, offenders leaving custodial sentences committed almost twice the number of crimes in the first quarter of 2008 than those previously given court orders. The evidence suggests that those who were given court orders rather then custodial sentences were less likely to reoffend.
Ministry Of Justice (2008)
According to the Ministry of Justice's most recent publication,
“offenders commencing court orders have lower (reoffending) frequency rates than offenders discharged from prison.” The report which was made by the Public Accounts Committee in 2008 found that there was reason to believe that community orders had been more successful in combating reoffending than custodial sentences. The group of MPs who produced these reports found that for those given community sentences, found that actual reconviction rate was lower than those sentenced to custodial sentences for similar offences. Their findings indicate that community orders have a bigger impact on reducing reoffending. This may indicate that prison is not working as a form of punishment or deterrent.
“Fourteen prisons in England and Wales, most of which hold short-term inmates, have reconviction rates of more than 70%, Ministry of Justice figures disclosed today reveal.” The Guardian (2010)
“The statistics underline the long-term ineffectiveness of the criminal justice system at diverting persistent offenders from a life of crime. Of those given a community punishment or sent to prison, 74% are convicted of another crime within nine years.” The Guardian (2010)
The above statements clearly highlight the ineffectiveness of a prison sentence. It acts as a deterrent for few and the re offending rates show that the custodial sentence is ineffective to criminals. For offenders prison is not a place to rehabilitate or emerge from as upstanding and law abiding citizens. The statements also suggest that prison is not working as a form of punishment or means of deterrent but in fact a place where offenders don’t mind returning to. Prison seems to be a form of rehabilitation for less than 30% of the prison population. Pead 2006 suggests that the majority of people leaving prison are not so chastened by their ordeal that they refrain from crime. His claims are wholly backed up by the above statistics.
“Learco Chindamo, the killer of headmaster Philip Lawrence, has been arrested for an alleged violent mugging just four months after he was controversially freed from prison and allowed to remain in Britain. “ The Telegraph (2010)
Chindamo was freed in July 2009 having served 14 years of a life sentence for stabbing 48-year-old Head teacher