EFFECTS OF IMPRISONMENT ON THE PRISONER
No conclusive study has yet been conducted to determine whether imprisonment as penalty is an effective medium in checking social transgressions or crimes. It was a criminal justice tradition that has been passed on while the legal system was evolving to what it is today. It has its roots in Europe and later with American jurisprudence. Lawmakers could only presume what in their estimation is the better approach in dealing with and in the deterrence of social transgressions.
Historically, offenders, whatever law or norm or mores they have breached, were banished, flagged, thrown in the jungle, or in the middle of the ocean or boiled in oil or even burned in stake. The most subdued penalty however was in depositing an offender in the dungeon. That was one approach which made present day imprisonment its direct descendant.
Castrating a person of freedom, physical freedom that is, is tantamount already to decapitating him socially. He is segregated from his community of orientation. He is deprived of movement. He has little control of his resources. He becomes dependent on every routine and those around him. He must be patient, humble and subservient to survive. He must swallow his pride and forget about himself. This is of course the cost and consequence of violating the laws of his society and the offender, after a protracted defence, assuming of his guilt, accepts defeat, goes through the procedure and finally resigns his fate in the calaboose.
Except for insights on how convicts or even those detained are restricted and constrained within a highly controlled area, the regime is seldom revisited for whatever its worth. Incarceration is indeed a painful stage that disturbs a person’s psyche. It reduces a person to the sub-human level. His rights are limited to sub-human condition. The loss of freedom, the fountainhead of all human rights, is enough to sustain a period of constant depression.
Service of Penalty
The law presumes that after a period of confinement, a person, much like a patient to a hospital, would have been cured of a disease; that the person should have been rehabilitated, should have undergone penance, should have lamented and should have passed through atonement. A prescribed phase is handed down as penalty corresponding to the offense committed carries the necessary caveat; that the place of confinement should not impose the necessary atmosphere of abuse, that there should be an air of fairness, that it should be administered with efficiency and competence. Without these concerns, imprisonment merely reinforces hostility, breeds antagonism and worst, teaches a delinquent to be heinous.
It is likewise ironical if not a horrifying a situation to find a patient hospitalized for flu if only for said patient after a considerable period to eventually contract and suffer Ebola disease!
Man unlike any animal can survive long stretches of captivity. He adapts to his environment as a matter of course. He can simulate, feign, adjust, pretend and reinvent himself. An offender accepts his fate and encountering pain of segregation, would easily succumbed to lamentation. But this is based on the condition, humane condition, where hope is reachable; where fairness is accessible; where understanding and reason are available. Properly administered, the prison community can sustain hope and reason. Remove hope and reason, the prison facility is transformed into a school for serial and heinous persons. Under this situation, imprisonment breeds predators deprived of human values and dispossessed of any shade of conscience.
Imprisonment and its expressive vehicle, prison administration, tread on sensitive grounds. Either it makes OR breaks humanity.