Prisons that Serve Society

Memorandum to Political Parties on the Occasion of the General Elections 2003

The prisons must serve society. It is senseless that people continue to be sent to the prisons only to leave them worse than when they entered them. This squanders public funds to the detriment of the public’s same interests. The prisons must be places of therapy where inmates, especially the young, may heal from the causes of their delinquency and criminality.

For this to be achieved it is necessary that the prisons be places of discipline, free from corruption, and clear from drugs. The prisons’ security and any other function must be at the service of therapy, and not the other way round. The concept of the inmates’ education must be widened so as to include formal and practical instruction, such as vocational training. It must also include informal instruction, which is the education that is transmitted in an indirect way through an environment that is humanly respectful and ethically clean. Without making the inmates unduly nervous or preoccupied, the prisons’ environment must positively predispose them to therapy. It is in such manner that inmates can be prepared to re-establish themselves successfully in society.

This means that much attention must be given to the training of prison officials, both those who are in command — so that all their undertakings shall have a therapeutic aim — and also those who come in direct contact with inmates. The Prison Board of Visitors must be composed of a manageable number of people, and given some effective power.
The families of prisoners, as indirect victims of crime, must be given the greatest respect, and treated with the utmost sensitivity. Voluntary groups must be assisted as much as possible so that they may contribute to the best of their abilities according to their specific nature.

As people to whom, first and foremost, the service of justice has to be oriented, victims of crime must be given the most privileged place in the new government’s agenda. The government’s program should provide not only for direct victims of crime but also for those who may be potentially in some special danger of becoming victims. This program may not necessarily include a system of pecuniary recompense, but rather a system that guarantees the victims’ right to information. This system may function in cooperation with the police force, the Courts of Justice, and those entities especially close to the citizen, such as the Local Councils.