Imprisonment is one of the harshest, most common, and nevertheless, quite problematic social and legal institutions. Practice and multiple scholar investigations show that this kind of punishment does not contribute to the attainment of general goals of punishment, and is even harmful for both prisoner and community. Problems that exist in this regard at the present stage of development of the state and society are major because they affect human rights and freedoms of the citizen as well as rights and freedoms of local community and the entire society. Moreover, scientific researches conducted concerning social and legal problems of the use of imprisonment show that this type of punishment is a fairly complicated, contradictory, and abstract social and legal phenomena that is inadmissible as type of punishment for democratic and law-governed state.
Being declared as humane means of protecting society from the most dangerous criminal assaults, imprisonment is associated with many social and legal problems and negative effects that not only excessively punish the convicted person, but also interfere with the rights and interests of popular majority, pointing to its redundancy, low efficiency and increased public danger. Not only convicts suffer extreme physical, material, social, psychological and moral damage while serving this type of punishment, but millions of innocent people are affected badly. Damage is thus inflicted to victims, families, relatives, friends and acquaintances of victims and prisoners, or just people who pay taxes.1
Imprisonment is known to denote excessive measure of punishment, which consists in isolation of a person from society for a specified period, and is combined with other curtailing and deprivation of rights, namely political and social rights and liberties; it involves an uncertain legal status, applying an additional constraint in the form of the totalitarian regime, military drill, forced and often hard convict labor, excessive exploitation of prisoners for profit, ideological and psychological abuse, forced correction and rehabilitation, treatment of prisoners as the object of punishment, the lack of humane treatment. Such curtailing of rights accompany person after release from prison for all further life.2 Such modification of imprisonment still largely exists, and does not perform and can not perform socially useful functions; it does not protect society, instead it leads to greater social degradation, alienation and criminalization of convicts. Recidivism among persons released from prison is twice higher than the general recidivism. This kind of punishment should be aimed at socially important goals, such as prevention of crime, but in reality imprisonment criminalizes a large number of people and continuously determines the crime. At the present stage of “struggle” against crime, it is generally known that almost every group and organized criminal formation incorporates the “experience” of imprisonment, which frequently constitutes their core. Individuals that are released from prison do not find their place in society. This contributes to curtailing of rights in connection with their serving of imprisonment and lack of an effective system of their social adaptation.3 The current system of employment helps to find work only for about 10 percent of released prisoners. Some of these people draw law-abiding citizens, minors and those who never worked and not studying people into criminal activities. Another group of such people leaves jails being socially and morally degraded, and even physically ill; they usually cannot find shelter in the state and society and become the burden for them. Actually, many of the human services and programs found in the free society are duplicated within institutions. At a minimum, inmates must be fed, clothed, and provided with such basic shelter requirements, as warmth, electricity, and plumbing, and their health care needs must be addressed. Food services are an important part of institution’s operation. Waste and inefficiency must be avoided to control expense, but inmate demand and dietary standards must be met.
Prisons and jails are buildings that, like all buildings, require maintenance and repair. A large proportion of the maintenance and repair work is performed by inmates as part of their job assignments. Courts have held that inmates are entitled to medical and dental services. Prisons normally have an infirmary where less serious ailments can be treated. More serious problems necessitate transfer to either a prison with more extensive medical services or a hospital in the local community.
Another harmful aspect of imprisonment is that law-abiding portion of the population feels constant danger living near persons who have served sentences of imprisonment. A natural phenomenon for the prison is not only excessive punishment, but the abuse of prisoners, group and mass disobedience and escape, committing crimes, a large number of violations of discipline and a high morbidity and mortality, suicide, tuberculosis, AIDS, other social diseases, human rights violations. In general, punishment of imprisonment affects the social processes of community getting involved in its gene pool, while it neither reduces crime rates, nor protects society; it does not remedy the convicts, it does not prevent crimes either.4 Therefore, the use of imprisonment is always associated with significant social problems, including: socio-demographic, social and economic, socio-psychological, criminological and moral adverse effects.
Therefore, while speaking of imprisonment, a fair question arises: if the punishment, its type and scope deforms society and makes it basically unprofitable while interfering in some way in its normal life and development, then do we need such a policy, does it have a right to exist? An obviously correct answer is “no,” punishment in the form of imprisonment does not provide any benefits to both prisoners and the community; moreover, it is harmful for both of these subjects, and it is thus unnecessary measure of correctional influence.
Carlson, N., 1967, Yesterday’s ‘Baby Boom’ is Overcrowding Today’s Prisons, U.S. News and World Report, March 1, pp. 67-68.
Council of Europe, 1950, European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, 4 November 1950, ETS 5, available at: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/3ae6b3b04.html [accessed 17 September 2011]
Shields, H. Churchill, M., 1974, The Fraudulent War on Crime, Nation, December 21, p. 649.
United Nations, 1948, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations, viewed 19 March 2007,
Wicker, T., 1972, The wrong model, New York Times, July 27, pp. 3-5.