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The Limits of Prison Reform

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A reform consists in the intention to introduce changes into a given system of social institutions which would not be aimed at its radical and qualitative transformation but would resolve themselves into improvement or rationalization. The reformatory thought may be inspired by conservative, liberal or radical attitudes which determine the motives, limits and profoundness of the changes. In the present paper, a conception of a reform of the prison system has been presented which would assimilate its contents to the substance of punishment, i.e. retribution in its humanistic interpretation and the values that come to the foreground of the axiological system of our times. These values are included in the notion of the dignity of a human being which results from treating man as the aim in itself and a being endowed with free will. The authors have assumed in the present paper that when reforming the prison system, all of its elements can be manipulated with the following exceptions: deprivation of the isolated person of his right to decide about his place of abode, and his duty to stay in a place determined by the authority which executes the penalty. Therefore, the following things can be changed: the ideological grounds of the system, i.e. its aims, functions and the role it plays in the global system of interests; external organization of the system, i.e. its -management regulation of interactions between the isolated and the isolating communities, organization the staff; material equipment of the system, i.e. buildings and their architecture, the arrangements concerning security, economy nd production. The authors oppose the conception which has been called here the reason of humanized retribution to the two contemporary variants of the prison policy. Ideologists of the first of them (the variant oriented at a psycho-social corrective treatment) model prisons having in view the future law abiding functioning of the offender in the society. An individual is here but a ,.human material" which is to undergo transformation as a result of the application of adequate measures. Ideologists of the second variant (one oriented at education through work) emphasize the social needs not connected with the prisoner who is treated as a quantum of man power that can be used. Retribution is inherent in the prison policy irrespective of the intention of its promotors and executors. After all it is one of the elements of the execution of penalty. The moral value of retribution resulting from a just punishment was recognized in the philosophy and dogmatic assumptions of pastoral theology. Recognizing punishment to be the offender’s personal right, we at the same time recognize his dignity due to a rational person. Therefore, punishment based on retribution certifying to the subjectivity and dignity of an human being, is tantamount to the humane attitude. To render possible the realization of the reason of humanized retribution, definite conditions have to emerge. These are: consistently grounding the punishment on the responsibility for the commission of a given act: this excludes the use of the perpetrator’s way of life, state or personality, and opinions as the essential criteria for meeting out punishment, and leads to the imposition of prison sentences for the most serious crimes only; stopping both the building of new prisons an the artificial increase of the capacity of the existing ones; overcoming the barrier of functional connections between prisons and state enterprises which use the immates cheap and first of all easily disposable man power. The reform of the prison policy inspired by the reason of humanized retribution can be expressed in three fundamental postulates which are: (i) the principle of the rule of law and that of mutual respect for the legel status of the prison staff and of the inmates; (ii) the principle of respect for the prisoners dignity; (iii) and the principle of minimalization of isolation of the prison system and of increasing its integration with the outside social environment. The rule of law which is the content of the first principle is the order not only of an absolute observance of the law, but also of the consistence of its contents with the achievements of civilization and morals of the global , society. Thus, on the one hand, the importance of the law as an instrument to eliminate arbitrariness of decisions from the process of execution of penalty is emphasized here, and, on the other hand, the postulate acquires justification that the prisoners' rights - instead of resulting from discretional decisions - be the articulation of the socially accepted values and their realization in accordance with the spirit of times. Thus the prisoners rights become the content and at the same time the safeguard of an humane attitude towards him. The recognition of the rule of law as the central principle of the prison policy is justified by the very reason of humanized retribution. According to this principle. the process of execution of the deprivation o [ liberty is treated as a sui generis legal relationship between the prison management and the prisoner. the safeguard o[ which is the principle of mutual respect for the both parties legal positions. The construction of a definite catalogue of these rights is the task of the legislation. In any case, the prisoner retains his rights to the extent appropriate of any citizen in barracks. The only thing the penal isolation eliminates is the personal participation in the outside social life. A specific prison right is the inmates' right to use the period of isolation in the way that would be most helpful for their evelopment, which means, among other things the opportunity to participate in treatment alternatives offerred to them, or the conditions for individual development. For the principle of mutual respect of legal statuses to be realized, the prisoner should be equipped with effective means of execution of his rights. This is dictated by two reasons. Firstly, the conception of the process of execution of the penalty of deprivation of liberty as a legal relationship between the prisoner and the management naturally brings the normative factor. to the fore; secondly, prison-as an extremely dense social environment-releases tensions increased by the particural susceptibility to aggression on the part of both of its communities. The prison policy is a negation of the principle of respect for the prisoner’s human dignity in the present interpretation, its contents being adjusted to the Spartan attitude towards men in which an human being has an instrumental Value only. Therefore, he may be modeled after a freely chosen pattern by means of open repression, behavioural conditioning and other kinds of manipulation. On the other hand, the opposite Socratean model of influencing the individual is consistent with the authors assumptions. According to this model, the principal means of the so-called prisoners resocialization are discussed in the paper (work, education, access to culture, as well as punishment and award), in the effort to define them in such a way as never to disturb the ideological contents of the Socratean attitude towards the development of the individual. Prisons are social institutions for which everybody is responsible, though to a varying degree. This gives significance to the principle of minimum of isolation and integration of the prison with the outside social milieu. In this connection, a detailed discussion has been included in the present paper of the forms of isolation (internal, external), the effects of its accomplishment (material and social), and the effects of alienation of penal institutions ( totalitarization, prisonization, exlusion of social control, strict control of contacts with the outside social milieu). To sum up, the approach presented in the present paper is aimed at overcoming the stereotype that consist in a critical analysis of the separate elements of the prison system without a comprehensive appraisal of its theoretical and practical values. This stereotype does nothing but consolidate the system the value of which has never been verified, and results in the prison policy becoming more and more eclectic.

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