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Thursday, September 10, 1998 Published at 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK

Talking Point

Is prison the best punishment? Your reaction

Votes so far:


  Yes: 50%   No: 50%

Yes I think prison is the best punishment. But look at the state of prisons in the UK today, for example I have heard that prisons seem luxurious with TV in each cell, computers and drugs it is getting out of control. If I were Home Office Minister I would simply transfer all prisons to a simple, hard, shock system with tough security, tough rules, and little freedom in jail. That is no TV, newspapers, computers allowed so it will reduce the rate of crime once they have done their time.
Duncan Harper, UK

Prison must be the last option after everything else has failed to rehabilitate the criminal.
Peter Ernest, England

What other deterrent is there against crime? However, prison should be a form of punishment not a holiday camp, or a place where murderers can get a degree in psychology at the taxpayers expense, especially when the law-abiding young are now required to pay if they want to go to university.
Peter Olohan, USA

Although imprisonment may not change criminal behaviour, it does serve as a deterrent. However, I don't think imprisonment alone is effective in correcting behaviour. It MUST be supplemented by psychological or religious assistance.
Betty, Hong Kong

I have always believed that governments should work to make prisons active work and education centres. Instead of having prisoners getting bored and more corrupted while they are in prison, I would make them work to compensate society for the bad behaviour. Just think of the new roads which could be paved/built, bridges that could be repaired, deserts that could be replanted, schools that could be built, and so many other useful projects.
Sam, Chile

I think imprisonment is probably the worst way to punish criminals. Prison only breeds criminals. It puts small time thieves into contact with hardened criminals. Living conditions are generally poor, especially in the US. Often prisons are overcrowded. As a result of public pressure, inmates are no longer allowed to study for a degree or a profession after their imprisonment. While just about 90% will eventually be released into society. Studies prove most inmates who are allowed to study never come into contact with the law again. Taking away people's freedom is just about the worst thing you can do to a man. It will most definitely not make them a better person.
Gerben Hoekstra, The Netherlands

As a physician, who has had professional relationships with prison inmates (several hundreds of men and women) in two continents, I think that incarceration of certain individuals is the only available method to protect the law abiding innocents. We need to remind ourselves the responsibility of the society to itself. It is in an imperfect planet in which we live our impermanent life spans.
A. A.W.Amarasinghe,M.D., USA

Prison is a convenience. The best "punishment" is education and psychological work with some kind of confinement.
Boyer Pierre, France

Let's be honest: voters like prisons. Prison is an easy solution to the problem of crime and doesn_t require much thought. Our politicians like prisons too: it fits in very easy to the predominate culture of sound-bite politics. So we_ve come to believe that the only solution to rising crime and violence in society is to lock up an ever increasingly section of the population. It's become clear that this solution does not work. The vast majority of people in prison are not violent or a danger to society, but are generally there for theft or other petty crimes; usually because of poverty or their addiction to hard drugs.
Paul Stancer, Hong Kong

Prison should be reserved for violent criminals. Others can be restricted with those ankle cuff radios, and the rest can do community service.
Ann Shaw, USA

Prison only serves the right purpose if the offender in prison can be helped to reform his ways. There are many reasons why a person commits a crime and it is the duty of us as a caring society is to help the offender. Psychology, better social conditions that do not aggravate already unacceptable behaviour. We are still locking offenders up, in the same manner that mentally ill patients were locked up in Bedlam.
Helena Tenne, Israel

Public humiliation would be a far better deterrent! Bring back the stocks!
Mark Nicklin, UK

In the USA (California in particular) we have a program that is elective by narcotics offenders offering rehabilitation options. The rehabilitation program offers the offender a chance to clean their record of of offences by participation and successful completion. This approach has been met with great success and is born out by the low rate of repeat drug offenses. There are some crimes for which there is no real alternative but incarceration, but we must also keep in mind that for some offences the only real alternative is the death penalty.
RB Curry, USA

Probably not. Ex-prisoners can't get jobs because of their records and they come out with a degree in crime. How are they going to feed themselves and their families? Exactly! There has to be a better alternative.
Steve N, UK

Prison breeds crime. People see prison as an appropriate punishment, but the principal aim of sentencing should be reducing crime, not punishing. Society is best served by reducing crime, not by endlessly punishing those who commit it, just so as not to be 'soft'. For non-violent crime, prison is counter- productive and an obscene waste of money, not to speak of human lives. Prisison is a cop-out, symptomatic of a 'not in my back yard' attitude, which just makes things worse.
C. Rode, UK

Prison may not be the best punishment in many cases. Some offenders who are not a direct danger to the general public should not be put into prison. I question why the United States, as a leading, developed, technologically advanced country, has the highest incarceration rates over other developed countries in the Western world. I question why the United States incarcerates minorities to a higher degree than whites. There has got to be a better way to rehabilitate offenders while maintaining their dignity, freedom, and rights.
Brian Dyson, USA

Britain has been far too soft and it's time to get tough not start giving easy options just because you don't have the room in prisions. Build more but use the inmates to do it. While you are at it take away the TV's and the phones in prisons. Put them to work for the country, they cost enough.
K. Jackson, USA

For the majority of crimes, prison is the best answer. For some however it is not. Murder and violent crimes should carry the death sentence, sex crimes should result in castration etc. The reason why prison is seen to fail is because in the UK sentences served are far too short and the prisons far too soft.
Edward Bear, UK

I firmly believe that the best way to protect the public is to eliminate criminals from society. Prison systems may not be having the effect we desire because they are becoming more and more lenient. Prison is meant to be uncomfortable and hard. These days prisoners have movies, sports, and other things they would not normally have on the "outside". They are actually rewarded for their behaviour. A prison in British Columbia actually has a 9 hole links course. As a constable, I'm wondering why we do the work we do.
Steven Lennon, Canada

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