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Prison Abolition Is Unrealistic. Prisons Are A Necessary Evil

Prisons are a necessary evil but the idea of abolishing prisons stems from topical debates circulating the developed world today that have to do with liberating the individual. Is there such a thing as taking a good thing too far? Yes. Taking a good thing such as liberating the individual and becoming so tunnel-visioned as to not see the collateral damage caused, that is in this case: one’s right to protection is almost certainly going too far. Simply put, society cannot withstand in a world in which there are no prisons because society cannot withhold from harming one another. Prisons are the necessary evil that which stands between the offender and potential victim.

Calls to defund the police to invest more money in the community and elsewhere, decriminalise drugs and abortion and reduce the number of incarcerated prisoners are ideas that have evidence-based motives. Indeed, it seems both plausible and likely that these events will occur in many countries in the near future. In the midst of returning the right to self-determination and bodily autonomy to the individual, many people have promoted the concept of abolishing prisons. After all, if true autonomy is to be achieved, the concrete holdings built to restrict that same autonomy must be removed. Right?

In considering the arguments for prison abolition, many serious problems are raised. Systemic racism places indigenous people in a far higher chance of being arrested and imprisoned. In New Zealand, Maori make up 50% of the prison population despite only accounting for 15% of the population. It is also well known that inmates do not cope well with the realities of prison-life. Mental health issues skyrocket in inmates, what with New Zealand prisoners committing suicide at a rate that which is six times higher than the average New Zealander. To add insult to injury, recidivism rates are extremely high as approximately 70% of prisoners re-offend once they are released. Abolishing the prison system can be, therefore, an enticing idea where discourses about its efficiency are concerned.

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If prisons are to be abolished, then what is the solution? No Pride in Prisons, a strong advocating piece for prison abolition in New Zealand, poses no succinct alternative. The reader is left to imagine what would happen if prisons are removed from our soil. If not prisons, then offenders may be able to re-offend with no subsequent prosecution. By the same token, it would be absurd to assume that any human society could achieve an absolute utopia free from criminal activity.

Therefore, there is no escaping the fact that offenders must face some form of punishment that which will act as a deterrent, or at the very least, be proportionate to the harm that they have inflicted so as to enact justice. Left as they may, hell would break loose and basic human rights would cease to exist. The reality is that incarceration is an effective means of incapacitation. It withholds the ability for certain dangerous individuals to offend and harm society. Crucially so, it provides victims with a blanket of protection and consolidation. Citing offender rights as a reason to abolish prisons inadvertently evokes victims’ rights.

It can be noted that the current prison system is one big ugly mess. Change certainly needs to occur but that change should not be as extreme as removing prisons entirely. Integrating more support programs into the prison system is a promising idea. Providing additional resources to the prison population may at first appear expensive but with time can prove to upskill prisoners and open opportunities which, consequently, betters the economy and reduces recidivism rates. There is the opportunity, also, to improve offender rights without compromising victim rights. Allowing transexual prisoners to choose their gendered institution is but one idea.

Realistically, prisons provide the general public with the easiest form of protection the state can grant. Abolishing prisons removes that fundamental right to protection that which every one of us agreed upon when we submitted to the state’s power. To conclude, prison-life does need to be made better for inmates and the processes by which offenders are prosecuted need to be confronted with anti-racist approaches. Abolishing prisons entirely is not the answer. In fact, as good-hearted as prison abolition advocates may be, their concept lacks tangible solutions to the inevitable effect of human nature: crime.

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