PRISON WORKS - Critically evaluate this statement.

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OCB CRIMINOLOGY                                                             TUTOR ANNE FREAR



This essay looks at whether prison works as an answer to all serious crime committed

by adults. Is prison there simply to punish offenders or to reform them, to

deter them from committing more crime or just to make society feel safer? People are

put in prison as a result of the crimes they have committed. Some crimes are more

serious then others so are treated differently. The more serious a crime, generally the

higher prison category and prison sentence they serve.

The prison population in England and Wales has hit an all-time high, new figures

from the Home Office show.  The number of people held in 139 prisons reached

75,550 - Six more than the previous high in April last year - and Home Office

estimates suggest this figure could reach 84,000 by 2009. Juliet Lyon, director of the

Prison Reform Trust, deemed the figures "very disappointing" and said “the weight of

public opinion may be pushing some judges into continuing to use custodial

punishments.” (Internet 1)

As a result of going to prison it is suggested that many ex offenders return to society

and re-offend again due to many reasons. Many prisoners are homeless and

unemployed after they are released from prison. Given this fact, it's not that

surprising that many ex-prisoners drift back into crime. Twenty-one of the twenty-

three service users in a Lancashire Homeless Hostel had been in prison. As a

consequence of being in prison these men became labelled and are seen as deviant,

Howard Becker a well known theorist suggested that being labelled ‘deviant’ might

have a profound effect on an individuals subsequent behaviour. (Wincupp & Griffiths


The homeless men appeared to be interested in reintegration within society, but

lacked the know how. (Internet 5).  Ex offenders feel out of place in society and are

institutionalised. Attempting to find employment for some ex offenders regardless of

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skills or educational levels can be extremely difficult. Merton (1938) developed his

‘StrainTheory’ by stating that crime results as one possible response when there is a

divergence between cultural goals and institutionalised means and described some

groups as having their opportunities blocked. They find themselves in a society with

aspirations of material wealth and the inability to obtain this wealth through

conventional means. (Wincupp & Griffiths 1999). With unemployment levels high

most employers would not consider someone with a criminal record. For some of the

men life was a pattern of prison then on release ...

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