LAST week I promised to finish the last part of punishment as related to conviction that lands one into prison.
There is misconception that when one is imprisoned one is wrongly assessed as undesirable and needs to be condemned and that the punishment must be sufficiently gruesome to make or her suffer physical pain. And this was sometimes qualified by the order of the court as “imprisonment with hard labour.”
In that token, the traditional ways of rehabilitation of prisoners is taken in that way and as such prisoners would be made to till the land like tractors in a servitude manner, come rain come sun.
Those old senior citizens would remember during colonial times how prisoners used to work on road camps under the Public Works Departments (PWD).
This is slowly phasing out through the paradigm shift into a new Correctional Philosophy; the handling of offenders is now in pro-human rights culture being enforced by several UN instruments that encourage several reforms in Corrections.
As indicated in my previous column that in Corrections, there are three broad ideologies that apply in correctional practices: Punishment, Treatment and Prevention. Punishment is the oldest form of societal response to the wrongdoer.
In the past it was divided mainly into two categories, death or wide range of corporal punishment, flogging, and mutilation with the intent of inflicting physical pain. The second and very important ideology in the modern scientific Corrections is the treatment of offenders with a very different meaning opposed to the original known literal meaning of treatment.
This treatment of offenders here is more humane and responds to the individual rather than the offence per se. Criminals are assumed to be treatable and need correctional intervention analogous to the approach used in medicine.
The treatment ideology is divided into three subcategories namely the medical or treatment, the reformatory and the reintegration models.
The medical or treatment model assumes that offenders can be diagnosed for their needs and risks, after which appropriate programmes are selected to assist them. Under this model, correctional officials embrace the notion that the problem of criminality is somehow associated with the constitutional make up of the offender.
The response or solution is first to diagnose the “ailment” through the intake assessment and then treat the patient.
Based on the medical analogy, most Correctional systems offer programmes such as anger management, educational and vocational training, life skills as workshops, family intervention initiatives and the likes with intent to help the offender to ‘fix’ his or her problem.
These are structured accredited programmes as opposed to those work placement whimsically assigned without assessment on their risks (criminogenic needs). The reformatory model dates back to Calvinistic doctrine that ignorance sometimes leads to poor choices.
Therefore through the use of education and provision of vocational and occupational skills within a strict regime, one can convert offenders into engaging in acceptable behaviour. The integration model also has a long history, but it has been popularised as a correctional option since the 1960s.
The basic idea is to find ways by which to resolve the conflict between the offender and the victim by providing an opportunity to allow the two parties to understand each other’s situation and make amends in a reasonable manner.
The concept has been referred to as transformative justice, “reintegrative shaming and restorative justice.” When it comes to the last ideology Prevention, both Punishment and Treatment are reactive correctional ideologies; they address the problem after it has already manifested itself.
The prevention ideology is proactive. It attempts to identify potential risks, environmental, social, and economic conditions and take steps to reduce the likelihood that an offence will occur. A famous Italian criminologist is quoted saying.
“It is better to prevent crimes than to punish them.” Within this correctional arena there are a number of prevention approaches, including programmes to strengthen the ties between prisons and their surrounding communities so as to facilitate inmates’ post-release reintegration and to repeal those laws which have no deterrence effect. It is a fact that there is no country that subscribes entirely to one model or ideology.
Rather, one tends to see a blending of ideologies as countries struggle to find the best approach for maintenance of social order and social control. Who knows, Tanzania could discover one of those approaches through researches!
Based on these correctional ideologies, Punishment, Treatment and Prevention to have them working as expected, there must be a coherent penal policy with the relevant prison law that can support those reforms and the necessary resources.
Therefore this should be worked out. Corrections is the formal link in the criminal justice system and sometimes euphemistically referred to as the “hidden element” of the system because it is the least understood. Yet it represents a unique element of criminal justice system that deserves better understanding.
Comparatively with other law enforcing agencies; it is always faced with underfunding and gets the lowest consideration in terms of prison’s advancement in modern technology such as working tools in rehabilitation and reintegration.
With this adverse consideration, Corrections fails to unlock itself from the seemingly failing approaches to the scientific correctional philosophy that could facilitate the creation of coherent penal policy with reductionist policy on prison overcrowding as well as having credibility of community sanctions, credibility of rehabilitation and social reintegration and lastly credibility on the Parole system.
These are considered to be the indicators of a performing Prison System supposed to protect society by providing reasonable, safe, secure and humane custody of offenders in accordance with the universally accepted standards, while assisting them in their rehabilitation, reformation and social reintegration as accepted law abiding citizens.