THE AIR BEHIND OUR PRISON WALLS- Prisons and rights

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THE AIR BEHIND OUR PRISON WALLS Introduction We all have for long taken for granted ways of punishing which have relieved us the burden of thinking deeply about punishments, as a results we narrowly formulate ideas and channels of effecting this process which eventually later we fail our target of deterrence and reform for which penal systems are meant to achieve. I want us to address the punitive process and particularly its purpose for which it is meant to achieve and still in a particular way observe trial and judicial process which as result penal systems are based upon. For decades the fate of offenders have been always falling in the hands of the state. The state has a developed judicial system which justice is entrusted to serve. Upon apprehension of an offender majority suspects of crime are remanded to await trial for conviction or acquittal to that effect if the suspect does not afford or meet cash bail constraints. CASUALTIES OF EUROPEAN PRISONS Noticeably Africans inherited prisons from their colonial masters, structurally and penal frameworks which as well has a fundamentally European origin. Our legends for African liberations being our great grandparent, grandparents, and our elderly living were victim of the first African prisons. The best definition for torture can be best defined by the despicable prospects of European prisons our men faced during the fight for freedom. My big question is; after our liberation from the whites, did we by any chance inherit the same the current prison system was subsumed as other administrative and political arena took African control retaining European face. If Maumau movement for example would be re-established, the target would be leaders of our own who unfortunately have served and continues to serve with disguised European prospects where their colour have concealed their ridiculed iniquities. We must at all cost make sure our political systems serve humanity without any speck of hypocrisy, have leaders who keeps the interest of all people at heart. I know it is much to ask from the new millennium era ‘digital era’ but anyway failure to comply will in all days raise criticism and we who have seen a shred of hope will be activist for this fundamental reforms. Today my concern target our prisons extensively after realization of fundamental rights which have been for a long time undermined despite international convections which we are signatory to and our newly promulgated constitution 2010 which guarantee rights to persons put in custody, detained or awaiting trial. More importantly since pan Africanism and African liberation there are no noticeable developments within our penal system or prison structures despite the fact that they have been adopted from our colonial masters. We at all times celebrate our national freedom without the realization of the existence of our own self colonialism which we suffer from by embracing neocolonialism and facilitating European colonial ‘landmarks’. Our prisons are the living evidence. Without mentioning Hague proceedings which have ambushed our only leaders and in addition and what appear more disturbing the despicable torture of our own liberation legends by our own leaders at Nyayo chambers. I understand some inequity is us Africans to blame but also Europeans have always with their disguised strategies manipulated our African ideals by all means. PRISONS AND RIGHTS To begin with; our penal system and prison system being a central subject in identifying African decency and free will in self Governance should be reformed and assume new structural development and new penal system which are effective to our African heritage for practicability and humane and dignity accountancy as guaranteed by our constitution 2010 article 28. It is of vital importance to address the fate of a remandee whose individual liberties and human life features are deprived. Being a remandee/prisoner makes one eligible to be treated as a homogeneous group in a solitary confinements worthless of the society. It is irrevocable that this is the least status that a human being can acquire. Prisons are institutions which to their capacity limit most of the fundamental rights [1]which include locking up offenders for a lengthy period of time against their will during pendency of their criminal proceedings. A wide range of constraint are placed on their freedoms on what they can and cannot do. There are a few questions which we need to explore concerning individual rights of people faced with criminal charges. It is not in dispute that offenders have got their rights which are warranted by our constitution and other international humanitarian organization which we are signatories. Justice to be served to the accused the presumption of innocence until proven guilty is a prerequisite measure thus every prisoner who awaits trial in a solitary confinement with his fundamental rights deprived has his rights infringed. Constitution of Kenya 2010 Article 49-51 3(b[2]) seek humane treatments of persons detained, held in custody, or imprisoned. This include a good dietary, shelter, and clothing and conducive favorable environment for that purpose. This haven’t been met by our penal system despite our Kenyan constitution fundamentally expressly guaranteeing its practicability in our constitutional reforms. This is a constitutional bleach and contravention of its provisions which need to be observed to the latter. All these rights are forsaken at the first sight in our legal judicial process, to my knowledge our Kenyan prison structures are the least tolerable one as far as hygiene, health decency and sanitations are concerned. In addition international convections on civil and political rights as adopted by general assembly in international standards and regulations’ under article 10 stated that all persons deprived off their liberties shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person. Stale prison developments; There have been numerous developments in all realms of lives in our globalized economy; politics, social and scientific revolutions which have taken numerous drifts in all continents which have made the whole world a global village. Unfortunately prisons have been held dormant in their structural and operational framework since its inception, despite the fact that they are serving humans in a globalized settings. Our penal systems rarely embrace other penal procedures effectively, this explains why our prisons are overcrowded beyond control. It have been a failure made by our penologists persistently made indeed forming the current dysfunctional characterized modern prisons.[3] Lawrence stone in addressing the problems of punishments today characterize twentieth- century prisons as ‘vestigial institutions which are less useful for system maintenance than an appendix in an individual’ [4] twentieth century prisons existence; ‘ they have simply survived because they have taken on a quasi-independent life of its own, which enables them to survive the overwhelming evidence of their social dysfuntional’ [5]in addition he re-establish this problematic prisons as the contemporary intuition that ‘nothing works’ extends with the slightly less force to probation, fines and community corrections[6]. We consider how best to run prisons, organize probation or enforce fines, rather than question why these measures are used in the first place. There haven’t been any active researchers to categorically work on the effective results of our punitive systems, whether the research methods and data collected illuminate truth isn’t my concern today since the existence of these research programs are questionable in the first place, all we have to note is that our system treat offenders like aliens, outcast, deviants losers etc. this notions and perceptions existed in early 15th ->centuries. We still hold some of the arbitrary draconian and orthodoxy extreme measures of crime control[7]. Our systems predominantly have always been focusing on the offence and not the offender. The reforms which were essentially adopted during the neoclassical era, Holmes describe offenders as morally diseased and wicked and as a general cause of crime who deserve segregated confinement. We still hold this sentiments of our early penologist to serve a different crime structure. This are merely the ill-fated strategies of crime control. Other different authors have taken notice too that the new era prisons has most of the continuing crisis and disruption in their penal systems which has no longer been taken seriously the rehabilitative values and ideologies upon which it was originally based upon. PURPOSIVE PUNITIVE SYSTEM There have been numerous proposals for advancement for new penal policies in the past which seek to reform prison framework and penal policies of sentencing; the humane containment, conception of imprisonment, probation and community service. These all policies have different purpose for which they are meant to achieve which include; moral reform, training, treatments, correction, rehabilitation, deterrence and incapacitation among others. This makes it clear that a prison provide an opportunity for reform and thus should be decent and austere.[8] It have been evident that our current system makes our punitive system the most remote process to achieve deterrence. It is of much doubt that any of practical punitive procedures that we embrace now is meant to achieve any of the above purpose. The whole system have failed to consider the main objective for which any penal policies are meant to achieve which makes the whole process dysfunctional. It is dysfunctional to have two primary objectives which are not compatible due to poor functional and structural set up. It is not possible to maintain a balance between the object of deterrence which implies a punitive coercive environment with that of rehabilitation which need not adverse sanctions but rather a simple re-correction formula. In fact as result of this coercive punitive measures; it makes the offender tolerant to this unbearable environment which build resistance to change. Tallack defines offenders as morally responsible individuals worthy of a chance to reform and thus there is need for them to be treated with respect and humanity.[9] It is also important to understand the distinction of the two results (deterrence and reform) and the other irrelevant results which seem morally right but irrational among them being retribution for vengeance which solve a criminal act with another as a pay back. Eventually as a result the outcome which is being aimed at is wrong in the first place, then improving the process will simply mean that one achieves the wrong outcome more effectively. When the offender serves and completes his jail term, the friendly welcoming environment there after upon release will have no significance to his social life change, moreover the offender will treat every individual with bitterness for vengeance due to adverse irrational punitive procedures. Detention and complete segregation alone serve no purpose except physically lifting opportunities of perpetuating acts of crime which ultimate results does not met the purpose for which this punitive measure are meant to achieve. The institution of punishments conveniently provide us with narrowly construed answers to questions which crime in our society would otherwise evoke with haste. At this juncture this systems fails to address any long-term major problem that may arise in solving a subsequent minor problem. Our institutions are shallow, they tell us what criminality is and how should be sanctioned, how much punishment is appropriate and what emotions can be expressed, who is entitled to punish and where in lays the authority to do so. The major problems nevertheless are ignored or authoritatively settled or overshadowed. Our penal system in its very existence as a result end up helping us to forget that other answer exist to these problems and their settlements are possible and coherent to our overwhelming developments plans and strategies for change. And good prison institution is one which protect the ideal, personality and respect for human dignity and conscious and as well main good order in prisons, Provide prisoners with opportunities to develop their personalities talents and skills in a positive manner, encourage prisoners to face up to the consequences of their actions in a manner which recognizes the harm which they have committed and which makes it less likely that they will act in a similar way in future and to that effect the system must also prepare prisoners for integration in to society upon release. Better prison structures which protect rights to privacy thus not converging inmates in a warehouse groupings which promote cruelty within prisons unlike secured cubicles which promote mutual trust and sense for respect and dignity. This does in anyway change the punitive prospects of the prisons since seclusion and confinements as well as cheap labor is equally punitive. There is a depth of untapped potential in our prisons which could be realized for the benefit of our communities and for reform purposes those ensuring crime control is effective at its beneficial limits which include engaging prisoners in meaningful work;- Teesside university 2003;4…..researchers reported after a project to evaluate the work carried out by three prisons in north- east of England to help Middlebrough council renovating a large Victorian park in the middle of the town that prisoners work best where they serve the community among them being the family of the prisoners which as a result buys trust and sense of pride and achievements. The pride does not only arise from the quality of work only but also because of who the beneficially of such projects would be, e.g. orphans, the poor, family and the entire society.[10] Justice at stake In our Kenyan criminal trials, it is evident that criminal proceedings takes at least 2rys to commence. Appeals situation is despicable; appeals takes at least 5yrs. At these level the scale of justice tilt at all material time is contested but in the long run it’s the jury whose hands are tied by law deliver ‘justice’ based on witnesses, evidence and material facts presented before honorable court. Witness summoning by the prosecution in criminal cases have been the baseline for the ultimate delay of criminal proceedings, office of the D.P.P have been blamed for this hiccups which on the other hand the offender is the one who feel the pinch. Eventually these becomes a long-term investments to the judicial staffs and advocates who are the beneficiary of this delay. In addition to all above miseries our courts layouts are limited, improperly furnished with their structural settings squeezed to the edge. The offender at all material times are crowded and squeezed together; ‘the ill-fated ones’ to compete for their last breathe of freedom until the commencement of their trial. At this level we all agree that justice can fit a better definition and thus it is our initiative to re-evaluate prisoners’ social status. It is irrevocable that the prison warden too who spend more time within the prison walls with prisoners; significantly for a longer period of time than the majority of the prisoners thus are more effectively encroached within the same poor prison structural and environmental settings. This environs based on the poor sanitations are hazardous to both prison staff and inmates as well, this answer the question why it’s the profession that attract the least public interest. The profession credentials are way too low to serve the least knowledgeable crew. This is as a result of inhumane and intolerable working environment which most graduates are not willing to bear. Our environmentalist rarely overstretch their duties to serve prisons which is an initiative NEMA should take to improve prison hygiene and sanitations which marks as one of the most cherished humane features. Revolution for change There have been humanitarian reform movements which connect with classical criminology and some of the foundations of eugenic ideology as further classified by William Tallack and Thomas Holmes who were at different time secretaries to these movements. [11]Tallack acknowledged poverty as a significant contributory factor to crime and underlines the need for a thoughtful and discerning use of penal discipline.[12] Alongside other movements, Church of England temperance society had a remarkable stake in introduction of probations in United Kingdom as an alternative punitive measure for minor offences. John Augustus is referred to as the first probation officer whose initiative for probation inception cannot be watered-down. Our penal system has a quite wide range of penal procedures which on application would give a glowing face to our justice system and our crime control units. Thus there would be no justifications of our overstretched prison population for that matter. Prison reforms and sentencing strategies need to be revived to embrace other penal measures and relieve imprisonment which have been totally dominant for decades. It is possible for us to change this unbearable prison system to achieve the same purpose but in a favorable humane way. Most offenders are individuals with carriers; formal skills which can be utilized in a prison setup. I do understand it have been in practice for a good while but it have not been effected to its exhaustion. Our prisons do not provide a wide range of varieties of practical skills in jail. most prisoners as forced to abandon their formal skills to learn and adopt others which are outdated and least dependable skills despite the fact that there are prisoners who have adorable skills which are not recognized at this level. A good prison structure is that that accommodates individuals of all levels with humanity, treat them with respect and dignity, honor their opinions religious believes, political affiliations, their rational judgments and warrant their fundamental right. Their freedom limits should be exercised with austerity. The system should help prisoners To use their expertise to serve the nation as a payback for their actions;- Teachers, engineers, drivers, architect, medical practitioners and other formal or informal skills to be utilized to the maxim; it is the best way penal system can achieve its main purpose of reform and deterrence more effectively. This will make all remandees/prisoners a resourceful asset and not a liability to our economy and a more rational and socially fitting and dependable being. I may not have addressed every penal process and explored its lucrative results but essentially it is important to note that, even though imprisonment is a punitive measure of last resort.it is necessary we embrace other punitive and reform methods and honor right of individuals in custody because it’s a prerequisite tool to administer justice within and outside prisons. Suppose our institutions are meeting normal expectations and overall directions or basic legitimacy are unchallenged then there wouldn’t be such failures in our penal systems and if there would be any, no great consequences would be eminent.
[1] David Gurland; punishment and the modern society(1990) pg 5 [2] Constitution of Kenya 2010 Article 49-51 3(b) [3] Michel Foucault [4] Lawrence stone(London 1987)failure of punishments [5] Lawrence;-D.Rothman ‘prisons; failure model.(1974) .pg 647 [6] David Gurland; punishment and the modern society(1990) pg 5 [7] Classical theory criminologist; Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham(Taylor 1973) [8] General report of the general board of directions of prisons in Scotland 1840,pg23 [9] William tallack (1882). [10] The crisis in crime and punishment and the search for alternatives;-Cayley, D [1998] [11] Peter Raynor and Maurice Vanstone; ‘understanding community penalties’ (2002) pg 25. [12] Tallack ‘in a paper presented to a meeting of American prison officers in New York’. (1871)
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