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Violence in prisons has been quite a pressing issue for a while now. Prisons are increasingly becoming some of the most dangerous places to be in at any particular time since the various types of violence experienced in prisons are posing a threat tothe prisoners accommodated in them, the prison guards manning those prisons, other staff members and the whole community at large. Studies depict that prisons are headed to failure in accomplishing their core function as rehabilitative facilities meant to correct inmates and mold them to become people of great integrity in the society. Instead, bullying and other forms of violence force inmates to develop crude means of self-protection which they continue to use even after they are through with their sentences posing a serious security threat to the whole community at large.
Consequently, more than a third of inmates in prisons are meant to return to the community after they are through serving their sentences. The law expects them to exercise the ethics and norms instilled during the terms served behind bars in order to co-exist peacefully with other members of the society (Blakely, 2007). Once ex-convicts rejoin the community wilding more aggression and cruelty then the prison has failed in its correctional mandate and the community stands to suffer since these ex-convicts are more bound to go back to crime. Blakely (2007) indicated that studies have revealed that about a half of the inmates released back to the community find their way back to the prisons.
Types of Violence Experienced in Prisons
Violence can be defined as any form of aggression characterized by use of brutal force or treatment with harmful physical or psychological outcomes which is usually uncalled for.
Violence in prisons can take various forms; it can be subjected to one prisoner by another prisoner, a trend that has taken shape over time (Blakely, 2007). This may be aligned along gang lines in prisons or even personal differences between two inmates causing physical combat or verbal assaults and as a result, cases associated with beatings and rapes emerge. Cases of sodomy in prisons are on the rise in male prisons, mainly targeting new inmates or those seen as physically weak in terms of body size (Blakely, 2007). Some prisoners are also reported to have been forcefully been administered to drugs. Prisoner to prisoner violence has also been reported to be sidelined with racial backgrounds attributed to cultural background of prisoners where some of the prisoners come from places where people of a different race are alienated and subjected to violence and discrimination.
Violence can also be experienced by the aggression of inmates to the prison officers. This is usually a show of resistance by the inmates or in some cases personal feuds take center stage and cause mayhem. A simple form of aggression can cause panic in a prison unit and develop into a widespread violence in that unit and is usually physical, targeting lone prison guards.
Finally, violence in prisons can be characterized by the aggression of the prison officers to the prisoners. This is normally executed by means of torture where prison officials cause physical and verbal assault to prisoners in pursuit of gathering evidence. Inappropriate solitary confinement especially to people who do not deserve it is a form of officer to prisoner violence.
Causes of Violence in Prisons
The major cause of violence in prisons is overcrowding. This has been a persistent problem which has seen prisons operate at more than a hundred percent of the capacity they were initially built to accommodate. The soaring numbers have forced the convicts to literally fight for the limited resources and facilities available. Prisoners are seen to fight for food and better prison attires as well as the prisoners fighting for the most comfortable sleeping spots since none is guaranteed for one at such crowded prisons (Baldwin & Howison, 2002).
Underfunding is another major cause of violence in prisons; this has hindered expansion and repair of the prison facilities thus contributing to congestion in prisons. Reports on prison reforms reveal that underpaid prison guards fail to gather the motivation needed to perform their tasks appropriately, expressing their anger through violent treatment towards the prisoners (Baldwin & Howison, 2002). There have been reported cases of prison guards going ongo-slows thus encouraging the prisoners to take advantage of the situation and engage in violent crimes.
Neglect to prisoners is also a known root of violence. Inadequate or poor quality meals, ineffective provision of health services and poor sanitary conditions lead to prisoner to officer violence in protest or rebellion to these conditions, and prisoner to prisoner violence in competition for the best facilities, services or resources in these prisons (Coronil & Skurski, 2006). Study has revealed that there is exists a very fundamental relationship between the eating habits of a person and how that person behaves. For the optimum and normal operations of a brain, one has to stick to an ideal balanced diet (Taxman & Hummer, 2008). The meals should consist of the right proportions of nutrients like vitamins, proteins, various important minerals and correct amounts of fats in food. These combinations assist the brain in reacting to the various forms of stimuli subjected to it. For instance, people administered to the correct dieting appear to be more self-composed, slow to anger and generally slow to react on various forms of aggression in jails. These recorded an incredible decrease in the number of crimes committed while they were serving their jail terms compared to their counterparts administered to the regular prison meals which were seen to be of very low nutritional value (Taxman & Hummer, 2008).
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Extensive solitary confinement has caused a chain of results leading to violence in prisons. Coronil & Skurski, noted that solitary confinement by itself is a form of violence by itself whereby prisoners are segregated away from the rest in closed cells (2006). These inmates are not supposed to contact anyone, causing psychological torture. These inmates are said to develop paranoia and may pose a threat to other prisoners and prison officials’ ones they are released from these confinements (Coronil & Skurski, 2006). The states may revise the length of sentences awarded to each crime. A general increase in the term served by each inmate will strain the prisons capacity leading fights arising due to completion for the facilities among inmates.
The prison systematic may lead to an upsurge of violence in a prison. Some prisons do not conduct the cell-sharing risk assessment on prisoners thus increasing the chances of a prisoner to prisoner kind of violence occurring (Gaines & Miller, 2008). This assessment includes determining the crime an inmate has been convicted for and the chances of him or her committing the same crime in the confinements of the prison. Gaines & Miller established that the serial killers, for instance, should undergo thorough counseling and avoid pairing with other convicts until it is safe to do so (2008).
There are some cultures which crop up in prisons over time which tend to put violence in prisons as an acceptable practice. Some cultures like formation of gangs based on some elements like seniority or even race have heightened tensions in prisons with gangs competing for recognition and control of facility use. These gangs are the main contributors of prisoner to prisoner violence in prisons often with fatal consequences.
Drug use is amazingly rampant in some prisons. Workers and some incompetent prison officers are to blame for supplying inmates with drugs. Hard drugs like marijuana are known to cause aggression to their abusers towards other prisoners and prison officers (Kemshall & Pritchard, 2000). The control over drug peddling in prisons has led to an upsurge of gangs within the same prisons and the competition for dominance in this business has led to violent fights.Idling in prisons has also contributed to violence cases in prisons. Lack of recreational facilities, like wok-out joints sporting facilities has led to an idle violent community in prisons (Kemshall & Pritchard, 2000).
In an attempt to keep the inmates well informed, the nature of the library materials available to these inmates is to some extent responsible for the prisoners’ gross misconduct characterized by the various forms of violence (Sandhu, 2001). The libraries have been blamed for stocking sexually explicit materials which could trigger cases of rapes in prisons. Some books are said to even contain very detailed guidelines on various methods of making and assembling weapons which are later used in violent attacks against other unsuspecting prisoners and prison officers. Literature materials advocating violence and murder are said to inspire prisoners to engage in violence.
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Implications of Violence in Prisons
Injuries and loss of life are the two major implications of violence in prisons. Physical combat, stabbings and use of other crude weapons are the tactics reported to have been used by prisoners towards their fellow prisoners and prison officers (Sandhu, 2001). Some officers go to the extent of electrocuting inmates in order to torture or gather information from them, with serious health effects like damage to nerve cells (Lynch, 2007).Subjection to solitary confinement for very long periods of time interrupts with the normal brain operations due to reduced stimuli to the brain. Rape and repeated bullying causes psychological disorders. Victims have a hard time dealing with the situation and accepting that they really underwent the ordeal (Lynch, 2007).
Violence in prisons leads to new avoidable crimes evolving. The prison as a correctional facility for offenders fails in its mandate whereby the opposite is experienced. Inmates who are supposed to reform commit more crimes in engaging in violence (Lynch, 2007). Inmates convicted for other crimes end up being violent in a bid to counter attacks from other violent inmates. These self-protection tactics develop to aggression with time and the very people become the attackers.
In addition, Lynch say that this form of violence may trigger lawlessness in countries known to be politically unstable causing widespread violence in that country (2007). Costs incurred due to loss of life and the subsequent compensations, and treatments of injuries due to violence in prisons are all financed by the taxpayers’ money so the country continues to lose. Regoli & Hewitt (2008) indicated that violence directed by inmates against prison staff especially correctional officers has not declined since 1980. This implies that interest should largely be focused on the explosive, collective violence produced in prison riots (Regoli & Hewitt, 2008).
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Researchers suggest that in order to avert the cases of overcrowding and the violence in prisons, petty offenders should not be sentenced to serve in prisons. Instead, these should be subjected to both counseling and community work. This will go a long way to relieving off of prisons, rendering them effective and manageable.The prison officials in collaboration with the government should consider shifting focus to the use of new-age technological techniques to monitor actions and behaviors of the inmate (Cooke, Baldwin, & Howison, 2002). This will help reduce prisoner to officer form of violence and help manage the situation in the event some widespread violence which is mainly caused by disputes between the gangs that have formed with time in prisons before the situation turns sour.
The prisons should also embrace the idea for need to create forums, sessions or counseling to inmates who are about to clear their jail terms. These sessions should be done with the sole purpose of orienting the prisoners with the life in the society, enabling them to fit in and become acceptable members of the society (Cooke, Baldwin, & Howison, 2002). These sessions should also be done in the spirit of molding these inmates or convicts to become law-abiding citizens, people of integrity. This will in the long run avoid the possibility of inmates reverting to their old habits of violence in the prison and eventually turning violent to the members of the public (Cooke, Baldwin, & Howison, 2002). Young offenders or the juvenile seen portraying unlawful traits at a very tender age should be subjected to thorough counseling and guidance in order to correct them without the need for sentencing them to serve jail terms. This will not only avoid overcrowding in jails but also avoid the need for the young children integrating with the hardcore inmates in jails who would invoke aggression in them or even hurt them (Cooke, Baldwin, & Howison, 2002).
There is also the need for the government and the prisons to contract firms to conduct extensive research in the prisons. These research projects should be assigned to determine the forms of violence in the prisons in details, the root cause of that violence, the implications arising from those forms of violence and the specific solutions to these forms of aggression. Rafter & Stanley (1999) established that the government should further appoint committees to oversee the implementation of the recommendations arising from this research. The government should be ready to fund all these projects and ensure their success (Rafter & Stanley, 1999). There should be attempts by the prison officials to educate the inmates for the need of dialogue as a tool for resolving matters and shunning violence as an option to resolve a standoff or a stalemate between the prisoners or officials.
The prisoners should be encouraged to undergo courses while serving their terms in prisons. This will not only help them build a sustainable life when their jail term is complete but also keep their mind preoccupied and prevent them from engaging in violence and other forms of aggression taking the better part of their fellow idle inmates (Clear, Cole & Reisig, 2008). Some governments and states should sieve using crude methods of gathering evidence from suspects. Such methods are known to violate the basic human rights and are not in any way advocated by the international bodies involved in safeguarding human rights of people. People involved in this form of violence should be put to book to avoid a repetition of these crimes.
Prison officials should also try to improve the quality of food given to the inmates in the prisons. They should ensure that the food is cooked in the highest levels of hygiene possible. The food should be of a balanced diet in order to ensure the psychological aspect of the inmates is adequately catered for. Clear, Cole & Reisig (2008) recommended that the concept of prison subculture helps people understand inmate society. This means that inmates develop their own myths, slang, customs, rewards, and sanctions. According to Clear, Cole & Reisig (2008) the notion that the prisoner subculture is isolated, separate, and opposed to the dominant culture may now be misleading because contemporary prisons are less isolated from the larger society than were big house prisons.
The departments involved in the running of prisons in the country should work to see that prisons are a safe place to be. This will restore the dignity of prisons as a correctional or rehabilitative facility that receives offenders and gives rise to people of sound mind, of better conduct, people who are productive and interact smoothly with the society at large. In order to reduce violence and more crime in the prisons, the administrators ought to transform the infrastructure in terms of the rules that govern the prisoners, the staff ethics of conduct and the motivational bases instead of threatening prisoners every time with punishments and more sanctions. This will ensure that the prisoners develop a passion for embracing the values of good residency and a non-conflicting relationship with other members of the society once they finish serving the sentences.
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In addition, psychotherapists argue that the act of introducing healthier diets and nutritional supplements in the prisons is a means that can be employed by the government to curb violence within the cold cells. Studies by researchers in matters related to causes of violence in prisons reveal that addition of fundamental nutrients and vitamins to people's foodstuff usually reduces conflicts due to satisfaction.