Should non-violent offenders be put in prison?

Going back to basics, the purpose of the prison is supposed to be locking up individuals who committed a crime in a confined space in order to prevent them from committing the crime again in an open society. This purpose is very useful for keeping dangerous criminals like murderers and rapists in one place behind bars to ensure they do not commit their atrocious crimes again. But the theory of the prison fails when it comes to the non-violent offenders, i.e. thieves, tax evaders, etc. There are a number of reasons for that. First of all, non-violent crimes do not usually carry a very long term in the prison. For example depending on the severity of the crime, thieves usually get around 5 years maximum, but usually end up in prison for only around 2 years. So the idea of keeping those people in prison to make sure they don’t repeat the crime again is flawed, because in just a few years they will be out in an open society with a chance to repeat their crimes if they want.

Some argue that the purpose of the prison is not just to keep criminals confined in one closed up space, but to also teach them a lesson not to repeat any offence. The argument goes, since these offenders most likely will not enjoy their time in prison, they are unlikely to repeat the crime again. Once again, however, this theory is flawed, as statistics show that individuals coming out of prison are not only likely to repeat the same crime, but will go one step further and commit a more serious crime. It seems prison can actually make an individual more likely to disobey the law. This statement should not be a surprise. After all a prison is a dark place to be on a mental and an emotional level. It can turn the nicest people into hardened monsters due to the lack of proper social relationships and lack of visible kindness from fellow inmates and prison staff. Ultimately, a prison is an unlikely place to teach an offender to not to repeat the crime again, but it is more likely to convert a petty offender into a more hardened criminal.

In order to prevent an offender from committing crimes again, it is important not to just throw him into a prison, but to find out the reason why he committed the crime in the first place. Nobody breaks the law without a legitimate reason, whether it would be a troubled financial situation or anger at the establishment. For example, if a drug dealer gets arrested in a particular community, does the drug problem stop in that community? No, because another drug dealer will come along and take over the job. The answer to the drug problem would be to look at why the people in that community have a craving for illegal substances (most likely the reason will be an unhappy life whether because of an unfulfilling job or lack of opportunities to improve oneself). Therefore, the politicians and the authority should look into improving the community through creation of more jobs and other facilities in order to limit the number of people going into the drug dealing business.

Prisons are only a short term solution to the problem of crime. It is like a pain killer that stops the symptom, but does not treat the cause of pain. When politicians understand that in order to limit the crime rate, they need to thrive to improve the society rather than simply throw offenders into prison, we can hopefully achieve a better community for all.

What is your opinion on the issue? Please comment and share to spread the debate.

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Categories: Global Political Insight

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