Prison Life for Inmates
Sending offenders to prison has been used as a way of dealing with prisoners for a long time. It was not always seen as a way of punishment; rather, it was used as detention pending the actual punishment of these offenders. The application of imprisonment has been around, perhaps, for as long as humanity has existed. In Old Testament times, prisons were used in Jerusalem. Some prominent personalities have been reported to have been born in prison environments. Others have been imprisoned. It is reported that Lord Krishna was born in prison at a place called Mathura. Shahjahan was imprisoned by his son at Agra. The British constructed the historic cell at Port Blair for detaining for life those who revolted against their rule. Prisons have not always been viewed as a way of punishing offenders; rather they have been used to detain offenders before the actual punishment. In the recent past, imprisonment has been largely perceived as a way of reforming the inmates and not necessarily punishing them. Mahatma Gandhi once said acts of crime are a result of a diseased mind. He proposed that the prisons that host the offenders must be crafted as hospitals for their treatment and care (Kumar).
The issue of the ability for prisoners to cope with the reality of imprisonment has been a subject of research and even debate in legal circles. The reality has a negative impact on inmates and affects their ability to adapt to their new life. The process of adapting to prison life is usually affected by a variety of factors. Eight factors that negatively influence the ability for prisoners to cope with life in prison are Structure, safety, support social stimulation, emotional feedback, freedom and activity. They are central influences in the adaptation process. If these factors are not addressed, the ability for inmates to cope is greatly compromised. The inability may be manifested in ill physical health by the inmates, heightened aggression and violence (Covert).
There are various ways to define the quality of life but it is generally about the extent of one’s comfort in life, their satisfaction levels, and their mental health status. A number of significant negative and positive events often affects the quality of life. According to research by Covert, many people derive their sense of a great quality of life from family and home. They also get it from supportive networks such as friends and their colleagues.
The propensity to commit crime is a potential of all humans. Impulsiveness, aggression, self-control and conditionality have a direct effect on a person’s propensity to commit crime. These acts pose a risk to the well-being of society members. Research studies have also shown that those with high propensity to commit crime show a marked level of neurotism, psychotism, extroversion and inclination for lies (Khurana A. and Dhar)
One of the major effects of imprisonment on inmates is the fact that they lose control over their activities. Such lack of control is manifest in all prison environments. Prisoners lose their privacy and are under surveillance at all times. It is essential to understand the quality of life that prisoners lead in order to figure out how their state is at the moment. It is an understudied group. If only we could understand the dynamics that influence their quality of life and satisfaction, we will be empowered to device more effective rehabilitation programs. This reasoning forms the basis of inspiration for researchers to pursue this research — to find out the important facts about the life of inmates at prison, and use the research to formulate polices for community extension programs that are deemed possible at the college of criminology.
Generally, the life of a prison inmate depends on the physical environment of the prison comprising of aspects such as safety, diet, activity, freedom and privacy. The significance of the quality of life relies on the experience of life one experiences; therefore, such an individual (an inmate) is the only one to best valuate it based on his preferences and values (Kimura).
Studies have also shown that the issue of quality of life is subjective and that the perception is determined by each individual’s view of each subject. The subjective view of the satisfaction towards varying domains is regarded as the main determinant for making a negative or positive judgment of the quality of life. As a cognitive experience, satisfaction implies a lasting judgment about one’s quality of life and seems more stable.
Questions raised by the Thesis Statement
1. How does pursuit of activity influence the life of an inmate
2. Is the life of an inmate affected by freedom or the lack of it?
3. How does food/diet affect the life of a prisoner
4. Does safety affect the life of an inmate?
PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION
The goal of this study was to establish the dimensions of prison environment. The dimensions include emotional feedback, activity, safety, social structure, privacy and support. Available literature points out that these dimensions arise as independent manifestations in the prison settings and come with their unique make-up. These are common factors in prison environments. They form a set of prison morals, norms and the behavior prevalent and common in prison environments.
Departure Time Calculation
Once one is sent to prison, the exit time is of central importance to them. The calculation of the actual point and time of being released has often proved confusing to many inmates. There are many factors to consider when analyzing the actual period. Knowing their potential date and time of release can be instrumental in helping one prepare for their life in prison. Information on Half way homes is essential for any inmate. It is not about the inmate alone; rather, their families also benefit from such data. When the families of an inmate are provided with information on when a person that supports them is likely to be released, they can plan more easily on how to survive in the meantime. Such information helps the inmates and their families to handle issues regarding business, employment and general interest (The definitive Guide to Fideral Incarceration)
The placement of inmates is influenced by their classification. It is done on the basis of such factors as progress, behavior adjustment, and their general programming in the course of their imprisonment (Department of Corrections).
In pursuit of the intention that was incorporated into the prison structure, the basic aim was to help prisoners learn various skills that could help them in life. These activities include making baskets, brooms and shingles. Unfortunately, the concept failed because the inmates spent a relatively short time here. In time, the basement was transformed into minimum security confinements.
Prison graffiti is one of the least supervised inmate activities over the years. The images portrayed despair, humor and belated piety. There have been several pieces of this form of art conserved in the building for many decades now. The twenty-foot wall of the felon’s eating room provided limited and controlled access to an exercise space. Prisoners were also allowed to tend to small vegetable gardens outside. A section of the yard was set aside for the gallows. These were destroyed and kept between hangings (Burlington County)
The extent of emotional feedback is broad and wide. It has to do with the bonds that inmates form with each other, the rapport they strike, and the general relationships with other inmates. The dimension also includes the amount of communication they have with their families and friends on the outside. Visits have a profound effect on the emotional state of the inmates. They give an inmate a temporary release from the boring routine of prison life, perspective, and loneliness.
In a study that probed how inmates adjusted, it was found that females on lengthy prison sentences are not visited as much as their male counterparts as they grew older. The findings compare with another research done in a British female prison. In the latter, it was found that there were marked lower contacts with the local community (Kractoski). The research was based on the location and security status of the prison facility. It indicated that if the facility was located in a rural area, the inmates were less likely to receive visitors because of factors such as distance and general accessibility options. (Kractoski) discovered that anxiety and depression were common in these locations.
In summary, it is evident that emotional support is essential and goes beyond the social networks and friendships that inmates form among themselves. The friends and family on the outside along with the correspondence they pursue with inmates is part of the picture. Thus, these two have a tremendous effect on inmates (Bradford).
Freedom in prison has to do with the levels of autonomy allowed. Such freedom is influenced by a range of other factors; including fellow inmates and staffs. The oversight by the correctional staff is often construed as being unfair and often leads to stress. The practice of religion and the choice to take part in activities such as academic matters form part of the prison definition of freedom. Other factors that touch on freedom include how the inmates sleep and have a chance to read.
The study of the dimensions of freedom cannot be complete if one does not look at the control of the environment. Inmates who feel that they have control of the environment suffer less stress. On the other hand, those feel that they have no control have been seen to suffer from increased level of stress. Thus, the level of stress inmates suffer from is mainly dictated by environmental factors.
A study carried out on two prisoners over their perceptions on controlling their environment revealed that perceptions were correlated with the housing arrangement: physical well-being of the prison as well as the stress associated the incarceration. Further report shows that the same results were obtained even in cases where the housing facilities were held constant. (Bradford)
The safety of the inmate is an important factor within the prison since it affects the correctional staff and the inmates. This group consists of inmates on guard brutality, violence, security and acts of theft — Inmates incarcerated because of violent acts, sexual coercion, sexual assault, or violent altercations. Physical violence acts between the inmates and the guards as well as emotional and mental concern guard’s security concern as well as protection of inmate’s risk from physical violence. Physical violence, one of the key ingredient in the study in correctional literature coincides with guard brutality concerns, physically violent actions amid inmates as well as guards along with emotional or mental abuse.
Security concerns protection afforded to inmates who are at risk of physical violence. Prison violence is one of the major topics of study in any correctional literature. The incarceration of the offenders for long periods is not just violent and stressful but leads to destructive behavior in the inmates. This is an issue of great importance and is a key factor in the study. The prison mixes inmates with conflicting attitudes, experiences, opinions, behavior and leads to the breeding of a hostile climate that is always life threatening. For this climate to be prevail, it depends on the inmates’ characteristics as well as structural and physical characteristics. According to Atlas, prison violence is caused by a number of factors. However, it is not easy to know the exact reason for the violence. This leaves us with a myriad of other causes such as temperature, noise, color which extends beyond the environmental factors including guard and crowding, reduced leisure time and abuse. These causes are important to the study of how safe the inmates are in the existing environment since it is possible that they can exaggerate the existing conditions (Bradford)
Privacy looks at the isolation of the inmate, the overcrowding, guard encroachment as well as respect to the territory. It concerns itself with noise, specifically increased noise in the cell block which are thought to undermine the inmate privacy. As a result, the interaction between the inmates and the guards affects the privacy of the inmates and leads to instances where the inmates are searched when checking for the contraband. Crowding can therefore lead to assaults and violence and undermines the privacy of the inmates creating hostile situations. Also, it can lead to violation of the inmates’ territory and could lead to hostility between the guards and the inmates. Crowding is an important feature in all prisons because of its effect. In a female prison, it was found to be correlated to negative effects and is dependent on the population and the rate of infection in the facility. Activities such as aggressiveness were found to be correlated to crowding and aggressive acts thought to be hostile malevolent and intentional (Bradford)
The Invisible Prison
The post-war prison building programs took this issue further and incorporated designs meant to make then anonymous and invisible to the members of the public that came in areas where they were not supposed to be built in the first place. According to the home office report, the twentieth century building program, the elevation and the design were intended to get away from the traditional appearance of the prison. This type of prisons are quieter, have a better lighting, ventilation and heating. To avoid the distasteful sights, the high walls that identified the prisons were scaled down.
In 1864, a committee set a seal that the prisoners’ diet was not supposed to exceed that of the deserving groups. According to the inquiries of 1860s, the 1878 commissioners based their decision on the medical evidence and the scientific knowledge to determine the diet of the prisoners in the wake of the advocates that more protein were to be included. (Pratt).
A modern person requires at least 2,500 calories per day to maintain the body weight while women require slightly less than this amount. In 1800’s prisons, the prisoners who were able to get 500 calories per day were considered lucky. Overcrowding i.e. having 3 people in a cell built for one person, hard labor also consumed the little energy the prisoner had. Poor health, unsanitary conditions, and body lice were the main causes of jail fever such as epidemic typhus (food Reference.com)
In the modern days, a prisoner can obtain a balanced diet and supplement it with other diets from a prison shop. Most of the prisoners are housed in single cells or dormitories where the overcrowding that was witnessed in 1800’s is no longer in existence. Prisoners have access to physical fitness programs, health care programs, as well as sanitary conditions. (FOOD Reference.com).
In the United Kingdom, a prison-catering manager is given about $4 to provide food per inmate each day. Young offenders receive two times this amount. Also, the modern prison emphasizes more on rehabilitation even though the success of such programs is highly debatable. Part of the program includes teaching the prisoners how to eat healthy diet and how to look for themselves after being released from prison. New dietary regulations have also been introduced to reduce the onset of health problems. Long-term prisoners face risks of poor health care regimes stroke, diabetes, and obesity problems.
Special diets have also been introduced including Caribbean diet, kosher, Muslim diet, medical diets, and others. The modern catering manager is now trained on how to prepare such diets (food Reference.com).
Computer Training Centers
According to Kumar, already, there are modern computer training centers with each center equipped with 30 computers. National Council of Vocational Training (NCVT) conducts certification programs for the inmates. This has elicited interest in the prisoners and those with low educational qualifications get a chance to learn computers. The learners are learning through shifts. By September 2012, more than 2678 prisoners had been trained and were awarded with vocation certificates. The prison management system ensures that there is data in digital form, reporting, analysis. MIS reports have helped the top officials to plan better and make rational decisions. Adherence to the prison manual and discipline is ensured and helps to improve on the efficiency of the prison staff. This helps to increase the effectiveness of prison management. The system was considered highly successful and has won several awards including the coveted e-Governance award, CSI-Nihilent and Web-Ratan. This is a great achievement for the new and the underdeveloped state such as Jharkhand. Available also are art schools for painting, sculpture and drawing, education through IGNOU, NIOS and vocational skills training. Yoga and meditation are used to help prisoners reform and books, bags, and scholarships are given to the inmate’s children. A long-term MoU for the Art of Living Course was signed to ensure sustainability. Computer data bank showing the analysis of the above helps the management to plan and develop the prison industry including blanked manufacturing, soap making, and silk rearing and making flyleaf. This ensures development of the prisoners and guarantees that they engage in meaningful activities.
In an attempt to understand the prison environment, it is necessary that you are aware of the environment that exists in prisons at different security levels. Circumstances such as theft, violence, boredom are what make the environmental dimensions of activities. It also includes freedom, emotional feedback, privacy, structure and social factors. This dimension makes it difficult for the prisons to create ideal rehabilitation facilities or those that can deter, reattribute, and incapacitate while addressing the needs of the prisoners. In addition, the prison impacts on both inmate and contributes to the problem associated with these dimensions. The difficulties encountered is made worse by the demands of the society which seeks housing conditions, with no recreational activities, longer and stiff sentences, while asking those who have been released to be rehabilitated and reduce recidivism. This is meant to better the prison and reduce inmate concerns. Effort and resources should be individual inmates and not for the entire inmate population.
As a result, the issue of concern is the personal safety of the inmates. The dimension does not just focus on the prison environment; it concerns itself with the inmate, and the community. It aims at making individuals feel secure. The community too places emphasis on safety. This concern goes beyond the prison walls and extends to the community. More attention should be placed on this, concern and address issues reported among inmates. Leaving inmates to be on guard prolongs the problem associated with safety. This makes resources to be diverted to other areas of concern.
The prison is thus a reflection of society and the values are shared by the inmates and other citizen found in the prison walls. The values found in prison are reflective to those found in the society. The inmates are entitled to an environment that is safe, supportive and secure irrespective of the crime.
Bradford, Andrew Ryan. “An Examination of The Prison Environment: An Analysis of Inmate Concerns Eight Environmental Dimensions.” School of Graduate Studies (2006).
Burlington County. “Prison Museum.” A National Historic Landmark Located in The Heart of Holly 2013.
Covert, H. “Ministry to The Incarcerated.” Chicago: Loyopla Books, 1995.
Department of Corrections. Victims Services Programs. 2015. .
Food Reference.com. British Prison Cuisine. .
H, Toch. “Living in Prison.” The Ecology of Survival (1977).
Khurana A. and Dhar, P.L. “Effect of Vipassana Meditation on Quality of Life, Subjective well-being, and Criminal Propensity among Inmates of Tihar Jail Dehi.” Indian Journal of Criminology (2000): 20-25.
Kimura, M. and Silva, J.V. “Ferrans and Powers Quality of Life Index.” Journal Of Sau Paulo University School of Nursing (2009): 1098-1104.
Kractoski, P.C & Babb. “Adjustment of Older Inmates.” Juvenile and Family Court Journal (1990): 43-49.
Kumar, Sunil. “A case Study of Jharkhan Prisons.” 2012.
Pratt, John. “Purnishment and Civilization.” Renal Tolerance and Intollerance in Modern Society. London: SAGE Publications, 2002. 60-62.
The definitive Guide to Fideral Incarceration. .
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