It was Dostoevsky who said: “The degree of civilisation in a society is revealed by entering its prisons.” But in contemporary Britain you don’t even need to do this, you can simply stand on a street corner and wait for the ghosts to come flitting past in order to appreciate its parlous condition.Why the second thoughts?
We now have the highest prison population in Europe by a considerable measure, and following the recent riots there is no likelihood of it decreasing.
Of course, we aren’t quite at the levels enjoyed by our closest allies, those prime exponents of the civilising mission the United States, whose extensive gulag now houses, it is estimated, more African American men than were enslaved immediately prior to their Civil War – but we’re getting there.
Time and again addict inmates I’ve spoken to have told me that it’s easier to obtain heroin in jail than out.Well, that’s great if you run a private prison company! More repeat customers!
Contrary to the view of prison as a deterrent and a way of keeping criminals off the streets, almost all enlightened opinion now concurs in the following.
Not only does prison, for the vast majority of those who endure it, not work, either as punishment or as rehabilitation, but there is no escaping the conclusion that it functions as a stimulant to crime, rather than its bromide.
Oh, you don’t run a private prison company? But Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) does. They run the Georgia ICE immigration prison, and they want to build a private prison in Lowndes County, Georgia. Tell the Industrial Authority: we don’t need a private prison. Let the state spend those tax dollars on rehabilitation and education instead.