So you wouldn’t believe where I went today. Prison. Let’s just say I was there on official business with a few friends😂. We met those in charge, shook some hands, made new friends, etc. etc. Then our guide offered to give us a tour of the actual prison. If you’ve ever met me, you know how I feel about crowded places: I hate them, but this time couldn’t say no. So I was a little nervous, didn’t know what to expect at first, but as we moved from workshop to workshop, classroom to chapel, it seemed less and less like a tour and more like a desperate cry for help. Overcrowded rooms, poor hygiene, squalor… But that’s what got me thinking. We don’t often ask ourselves this question, but does prison really work? Does it really fulfill its purpose as a haven for reformation and rehabilitation? Well if we’re honest, no. In fact, it does quite the opposite. It’s obvious that prison only creates more crime and more prisoners. Imagine if I came to you one day and told you I had a fantastic new plan to stop crime: We take all the bad people and put them in a building where they can’t leave, and all they can do to keep themselves occupied is talk to other inmates and learn… learn how to commit more complex crimes and go scot-free. They might even form coalitions. Think about it, if there’s already crime in prisons, with kingpins and gang leaders even there, then how much more outside? Many experts have labelled prisons as crime schools, and it’s easy to see why.
Also, quick side note: why are prison statistics so hard to find in Ghana😂
I couldn’t find some, so I used other countries instead.
But maybe all I’ve said isn’t enough to change your mind – maybe you’re a numbers guy, so let’s look at the statistics (just a few)
In the US, almost 70% of prisoners are rearrested within three years of being released, 77% are rearrested within 5 years, and that’s just the people that are caught recommitting crimes. In the UK 47% of prisoners re-offend within three years of being released.
(However there is one country that has broken the mold an reduced their rate of rearrests to 20%. But we’ll talk about that later.)
You see, hatred breeds hatred. Violence breeds violence, and people who’ve been hurt go on to hurt others. And as long as the prison system is based on violence and hard-line punishment it will continue to create more violence and crime. The world’s leading psychologists have long agreed that confining humans in cages with little to no contact with others for prolonged periods is very damaging to one’s long term mental health. It dehumanises people and makes them lose their sense of worth. When you take that away from a person, more crime can seem like the only way forward after release.
And now let’s talk about one of the most damaging effects of prison on both prisoners and society: Isolation, especially from family members. Prison separates a person from their family, friends and other stakeholders that form an essential support network for a convict through what is no doubt a very difficult time. Stigmas and stereotypes don’t help either. One important factor that determines if a person behaves well after release is whether they have support from their family and friends. Prison makes this level of support almost unachievable. But it gets worse: stats show that if a child loses their parents to prison with minimal contact, they’re many times likely to grow up to commit crime themselves. So not only is prison preparing adults to re-offend, it’s also preparing the next generation to be criminals as well.
I think I’ve proved my point at this point😌, but what’s the answer? We know for a fact that prison isn’t fixing anything, it’s worsening the lives of a lot of people. At this point, someone is probably thinking, “Akueteh, I agree with you about how bad prisons are, but how do we fix this without allowing murderers, rapists and criminals to roam the streets?”
What if I told you that this problem has already been solved. Remember the country I spoke about earlier – the one with the 20% reoffender rate, it’s Norway, the sixth safest country in the world. But out of every 100,000 people in their country, they imprison only 71. That’s a very low incarceration rate. So how is this possible? They imprison less people and more people come out reformed. Every year their crime rate decreases and it turns out their solution was simple: TREAT PEOPLE WITH DIGNITY!!!
Welcome to Halden, a maximum security prison in Norway, that houses the country’s most dangerous criminals.
All inmates are treated the same way, no matter their crime, there’s no pointless solitary confinement, and this is an inmate’s cell. There’s a private TV, shower, fridge… It’s better than every secondary school in Ghana 😂.
There are shops to buy from, cooking lessons for inmates and yes, plenty of knives lying around. There’s a gym, sports hall, music studio, library…. You see where I’m going with this? Nobody has ever tried to escape from Halden prison and incidents of violence are extremely rare.
Norway is a vast, beautiful country and in Norway, taking away a person’s freedom is considered enough of a punishment in itself for any crime, so instead of spending a person’s prison sentence punishing them further, their prisons focus solely on rehabilitation and reintegration into society, to try and repair the mental damage that may have caused them to commit the crime in the first place.
So I know it might seem unnecessary and even unjust to treat convicts like they are in a 5-star hotel, but we have to admit that Norway must be doing something right to get such promising results. If the old methods of imprisonment don’t work, then maybe those prisons shouldn’t exist. Norway has proven that the only way to fix crime, is to work with criminals to achieve a better future.
Thanks for stopping by😄. If you enjoyed this piece, follow me for more. I like to analyze and write about whatever stirs my curiosity. Be sure to hit the like button and respond with your thoughts in the comment section as well. Till next time, Bye👋