“Prison History” documentary vs “The Mythology of Crime and Criminal Justice” essay sample

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“Prison History” documentary vs “The Mythology of Crime and Criminal Justice”

How prisons work and how is crime dealt with is very important since it influences crime rates and affects lives of a part, albeit a small one, of the general population. However, the approach to penitentiary system is often overlooked and neglected by the general public. Such neglect has a potential to create problems in any given country in the world. It could be particularly troublesome for the United States, since the USA has more than two million people imprisoned, which is the highest inmate population in the world and also about a quarter of the total number of inmates on the planet (“Prison History”).

Both the documentary “Prison History” and the book “” provide both information on development of prisons in United States in comparison with other European countries and an analysis of the drawbacks of the existing system.One of the most important points made by both sources is that the public prefers to deal with imprisonment in a way which suits them and make little note on how the penitentiary system should be used for its primary goal, i.e. preventing more crimes from happening. For example, in the movie it is stated that most important features which architects keep in mind during design and construction of prison blocks are safety of the public and safety of the staff. Meanwhile safety of the prisoners becomes overlooked as a secondary priority. In the book, a corresponding statement is being made, as society often approves for longer sentences and harsher conditions for prisoners because it makes them feel safer ( qtd. in Kappeler, Potter and Blumberg 290).

Information highlighted by both sources is an erection of so-called Super Max facilities. Those blocks are designed with an idea of a complete isolation of a person, which is possibly useful for cases of most dangerous convicts who have committed brutal crimes. However, since there are more spaces available than needed and the maintenance cost of such units is high, there is a pressure on authorities to use them up. In this way, Super Max units end up being filled with many other groups, particularly mentally disabled criminals. This fact is mentioned and discussed in the book, but omitted in the movie. Indicating and treating prisoners with mental disability is one of the general problems. In United States, it is estimated that every 6th person in prison has mental issues. A prison however provides an environment of constant stress, which not only doesn’t make people’s conditions better, but often worsens it. Furthermore, since mental problems are often not recognized, when a corresponding aggressive behavior arises, it is not treated as a sign of the disease, but as an intentional disobedience. (Kappeler, Potter and Blumberg 299)

The statistical data analyzed in the book actually indicates that the US penitentiary system works differently from the majority of Western countries. In most states, criminals would serve longer sentences than …

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