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Crime and Punishment, A Global Concern: Who Does It Best and Does Isolation Really Work?
103 Ky. L.J. 45 (2015)
  • Melanie M. Reid, Lincoln Memorial University - Duncan School of Law
On July 8, 2013, 30,000 prisoners in California joined a hunger strike organized by gang members kept in Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit and argued that solitary confinement constituted cruel and unusual punishment. As a result of his confinement, one inmate involved in the hunger strike stated that he felt as if all his ties to humanity had been severed. Every country, in some form or another, imprisons and isolates individuals for two common reasons: to punish or to protect society from the person’s anticipated future conduct. This article examines the relationship between crime and punishment and evaluates the four identified goals of punishment (retribution, incapacitation, deterence, and rehabilitation) in relation to their support or hinderance of restoring stability and order within the community at large. Each goal is examined and certain forms of punishment are evaluated as they fall in line with a particular goal. Who is being detained and who should be detained are important issues to explore in determining whether governments might ease up on detention policies and where governments should focus their law enforcement efforts. Comparative penology compares and contrasts the practical differences among countries on issues such as imprisonment and the harshness of penal sanctions. While it is the responsibility of governments to attempt to maintain social order, governments must examine whether their current detention policies coincide with the need for social order. The United States has, by far, the highest prison population rate per 100,000 of the national population with Russia being the second highest. Conservative corporatist countries such as France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands follow, then the social democracies Sweden and Finland follow suit, and Japan is the least likely to imprison their citizens. The diversity of penal sanctions abound – some countries rely heavily on fines or public shaming to punish, others use corporal or capital punishment. By comparing theories and justifications for punishment in various countries such as Argentina, Austrialia, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, Russia, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, we can identify common punishment goals associated with detention and what crimes that defendants are currently incarcerated for in some countries that other countries handle via probation or civil fines. With the United States leading the charge with approximately one in every 100 adults currently incarcerated, the United States can learn from other countries’ alternatives to imprisonment – which types of people are rehabilitated, what programs are offered to help with rehabilitation, what exists outside of imprisonment, and what assists in reducing crime and deterring others from committing crime. The question becomes what can be learned from those countries with smaller imprisonment rates and whether these alternatives work.
This article examines both established purposes of detention (security concerns and punishment) and explore several countries’ policies to determine when detention is justified and when other alternatives to detention should be considered. This article argues that the restriction of freedom should be taken less often than it does and that particular punishments tending to isolate the individual are much less effective and, in fact, detrimental, than other punishments that have a greater possibility of restoring public order and harmony.
  • crime,
  • punishment,
  • deterrence,
  • rehabilitation,
  • incapacitation,
  • retribution,
  • solitary confinement,
  • comparative penology,
  • mandatory minimums,
  • sentencing reform
Publication Date
Citation Information
Melanie M. Reid. "Crime and Punishment, A Global Concern: Who Does It Best and Does Isolation Really Work?" 103 Ky. L.J. 45 Vol. 103 (2015)
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