Thursday 25 December 2014
Saturday 6 December 2014
What comparison can there really be, in point of severity, between consigning a man to the short pang of a rapid death, and immuring him in a living tomb, there to linger out what may be a long life in the hardest and most monotonous toil, without any of its alleviations or rewards—debarred from all pleasant sights and sounds, and cut off from all earthly hope, except a slight mitigation of bodily restraint, or a small improvement of diet? (John Stuart Mill, 1868 Speech to Parliament on Capital Punishment)
Prison time is a very severe punishment. Any society that employs it should do so with care and restraint. Yet we do not.
Because we think that prison is a humane punishment, it is drastically over-used in many countries - to the point of cruelty. Aside from failing in humanity, prison does not even perform well at the specific functions generally asked of a criminal justice system, namely, deterrence, retribution, security, and rehabilitation.
We need to reconsider our over-reliance on prison, and whether other types of punishment - even corporal and capital punishment - may sometimes be more effective and more humane.