Friday, January 6, 2012

Prison Rule 3

It is astonishing to realise that this Rule, headed "Purpose of prison training and treatment", is the one defining the ethos of incarceration and yet it is a mere 24 words in length:

"The purpose of the training and treatment of convicted prisoners shall be to encourage and assist them to lead a good and useful life."
It has been noted that this once held the august position of being Rule 1 before being symbolically demoted in the latest incarnation of the Rules. This gives a hint as to the actual relevance of the Rule to the functioning of prisons.
The astute will note that the word 'punishment* is absent. Indeed, the term only appears in the Rules in the context of being slung into solitary for some internal infraction. When the odd, ballsy, Minister stands up and declares that imprisonment IS the punishment, not FOR punishment, then he is telling the legal truth. Our punishment is the loss of liberty (much under-rated by those who enjoy it) and not the further infliction of suffering behind these walls.

According to this Rule, rehabilitation has been the official purpose of prison for at least 45 years. 
I'm as surprised as you are!


  1. Not surprised at all Ben, its known as double speak when the official document and on the ground reality are two different things, or at best they are some sort of mix - some sort of shambles :)

  2. In an interesting corollary, in recent decision the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco officially declared that the only purposes of imprisonment (in US prisons at least) are “retribution, deterrence and incapacitation, not rehabilitation.” This was clearly news to the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (originally just the California Department of Corrections until they added '& Rehabilitation' to their title in 2004).


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