This study will focus on the role of the prison in contemporary society, in terms of assessing both its effectiveness, and consequently its aims. Essentially the primary question which needs to be answered is the extent to which imprisonment has a measured effect on its inmates....is the end product a rehabilitated criminal or a persistent re offender?
The area of study in which this investigation can be located is the sociological study of crime and deviance, This was chosen primarily because one feels that this is the most interesting module within the social sciences. However given my desire to study criminology at degree level I feel that this presents an ideal opportunity for me to produce a study that will be relevant to further studies.
Apart from the prison service and its institutions the role of the government in relation to my area of study will also prove to be a key relationship with regards to the connotations of this investigation. The attitude of the government at this point in time can be summed up in the following way.....
"Her Majesty's prison service serves the public by keeping in custody those committed by the courts."
The 1991 Chief Inspector of Prisons report (who at the time was Stephen Tumim) further states that it is the duty of the prisons to treat prisoners with....
"Humanity, and to help them lead law abiding lives in custody and after release."
In theory such an approach seems to be based largely on common sense and humanitarianism, yet this is unjustified by the attitude that the offender will lead law abiding lives. The latest facts and figures suggest that around 60% of prisoners re offend after release (The Independant 1996). However for Michael Howard, the current home secretary, 'prison works.' Yet it must be stated that government ministers have not always held the views of those highlighted today, for example David Waddington saw the prison service as being an 'expensive way of making bad people worse.'
Within contemporary British society there are an estimated 55,000 inmates currently imprisoned, with an estimated increase of 12,000 over the next ten years, according to the current Chief Inspector of Prisons Richard Tilt. With a further estimated increase in recorded crime and the subsequent building of more prisons this will increase the amount of spending by the government by millions, and the money will surely come from the tax payer. Despite such startling figures 3000 jobs are likely to be axed, including 300 prison teachers. Indeed education is some prisons may be cut by as much as 80%.
It is believed by many that the reduction of crime lies in education, yet for the government the answer lies in imprisonment. This study and its findings will aim to demonstrate a greater need for education and prevention, to be proactive rather than reactive. It will incorporate the views of prisoners, prison staff, the police, action groups, the public and even the prime minister. Secondary data will also be utilised from government statistics/reports and newspaper articles.
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