Friday, 3 July 2009

Security Punishment and Rehabilitation

On the 15th May I wrote about prison and its purpose. I summarised this by mentioning three uses. It is there to protect us from the guilty, to punish the guilty and thirdly to rehabilitate them. It may sound wishy-washy but I made the case for rehabilitation as the priority. It is so easy to see that prisons could be criminal universities in which case the result of poor rehabilitation is a hardened criminal community.

I am writing about prison again because Ronnie Biggs is in the news. He has been refused parole by Jack Straw even thought the parole board supported Biggs. The board's decision must have been carefully considered, but so too must have been Jack Straw's decision. Just because someone is not a risk to society does not mean that punishment should stop. Ronnie Biggs' son is reported as saying "This is not justice," as his father was in a "life-threatening" condition. On the other hand how many times have we heard the victims of our justice system say that life should mean life and an early release was a flagrant miscarriage of justice.

I gave three purposes of our prison service. I may be in a minority if I prioritise rehabiliation. Ronnie Biggs has clearly not been rehabilitated as he is "wholly unrepentant". So on my scale of values he deserves to continue his sentence. I would also guess that most people see their security from prisoners as a matter of course and they highlight punishment as their priority. In this case too just because a prisoner is unwell does not mean that they should not be punished. If this were the case I am sure we would have a long queue of prisoners telling us how ill they were.

Change the world.

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