An assessment of the present criminal justice system indicates that it faces significant challenges, particularly in the prison system. Problems in the prison system have been made evident through overcrowding and concentration on punishment as opposed to rehabilitation. According to Etienne (2015), the need for prison reforms is based on the impact imprisonment has not only on the imprisoned individuals but also on their loved ones, the community, and the economy. While incarceration is centered on the deprivation of the rights to liberty,Etienne (2015) state’s that it does not include the restriction of other fundamental rights. The need to implement prison reforms is based on the need to protect prisoners’ fundamental rights that are essential in improving their chance of effective social reintegration.
The impact imprisonment has in fuelling poverty is among the substantial reasons prison reforms should be enacted. An analysis of prisoners’ reveals that a significant percentage of them are from poor backgrounds. Thus, whenever an individual who is supposed to be a breadwinner is incarcerated, the entire family is expected to adjust to a decline or complete loss of income. Etienne (2015) elaborate that the impact of the loss of income through incarceration is felt most in less developed countries where it is not unusual for them to be only one income generating individual for an entire extended family, and where the government does not provide financial aid to the poor(Etienne, 2015). Focus in punishment at the expense of rehabilitation results in the incarcerated individuals being subjected to socio-economic exclusion once released. According toEtienne (2015), the socio-economic exclusion they encounter results in the released prisoners’ impoverishment which results in an endless cycle of poverty, criminal activity engagement, marginalization, and re-incarceration.
The negative impacts of the current prison system are further made evident through the public health challenges caused by imprisonment. Beckett, Reosti, &Knaphus (2016) analysis of healthcare provision among prisoners reveals that a substantial percentage of them suffer from severe healthcare complications. Health care issues among prisoners are influenced by the fact that most of them are not only poorly educated but also come from socio-economically deprived industries that limit their access to quality healthcare. According to Beckett et al. (2016), whenever convicted individuals find themselves in the prison system, their health is prone to further decline due to overcrowding, inadequate sanitation, poor nutrition, and limited access to exercise and fresh air. Beckett et al. (2016), assert that some of the prevailing medical conditions in prisons include HIV infection, psychiatric disorders, hepatitis B and C, malnutrition malaria, injuries, and skin diseases.
Because of the diverse issues highlighted against the current prison system, it is inevitable to note that the cost of imprisonment is significantly high. The evaluation Beckett et al. (2016)claim that the cost of upkeep among sentenced individuals is substantially high compared to those with non-custodial sanctions. In addition to this, the indirect cost of imprisonment is also considerably high, and these costs include economic, healthcare, and related social expenses that are not easy to assert.Beckett et al. (2016), also point out how incarceration disrupts relationship which in turn weakness social cohesion which is built on long-term relationships. Whenever a family member is incarcerated, the family structure is affected not only among spouses but also among parents and children.
Based on the evaluation provided, it is inevitable to note that there exist numerous factors that need to be taken into consideration to aid prison reforms. Limiting pre-trial detention is among the changes that should be undertaken since it results in prison overcrowding whereby pre-trial prisoners make up a significant percentage of prisons population. Coming up with alternative measures should be taken into consideration to rationalize sentencing policies among petty offenders. Focusing on rehabilitation should also be incorporated as prisons’ critical policies with the aim of making convicts better persons as opposed to punishing them. Improving medical healthcare provision among prisoners will also have a substantial impact in making them better and preparing them for reintegration if eligible.
Etienne, M. (2015). A Case Study for Understanding Prison-Reform, Its Advocates and Its Critics. Jotwell: J. Things We Like, 183.
Beckett, K., Reosti, A., &Knaphus, E. (2016). The end of an era? Understanding the contradictions of criminal justice reform. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 664(1), 238-259.
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