By Tracie Aylmer
At one point in our understanding and knowledge of our way of life, it should have been understood that prison was meant to incur shame upon those that have done wrong according to our social way of life. If prison is used for any other type of method, then there will be no shame and prison will not have the impact that it should. Instead, it will be treated as a source of resentment, particularly among those that are wrongly caught up in it. It won’t have the impact that it should.
I have been reading about Ancient Greece. Pericles gave a very long speech to Athenians going to the Peloponnesian War that makes sense even today. The law is supposed to be to do right by oneself, as well as to others. Neighbours are happy with what others are doing, as long as they are also happy within themselves.
This makes total, logical sense.
If the law is unjust and shame is delivered on those in an illogical manner, then the concept of the prison system does not bring shame upon those being caught up in it, nor does it have the impact that it should. There will be no rehabilitation to those that come out of it.
If the prison system was used appropriately then there wouldn’t be quite as many people incarcerated. If one looks at today’s statistics, many of the people caught in our prison system are there due to racial intolerance. Ms Dhu’s case is a perfect example of how the prison system has gone so horribly wrong. If she had not been caught up in the prison system then she would still be alive today. (Ms Dhu died in custody). There are many that have been similarly caught within this racially motivated method of keeping our Indigenous locked up for no real good reason.
Considering this same issue was commented upon so concisely by a man speaking around 2500 years ago, one can see that not only has history repeated itself yet again, but the concept of prison and shame has suffered. Prisons cannot be taken to be for the reason they are open. They cannot be treated as serious entities with the intent on teaching people that what they did was wrong. This is because many that are caught up have not really done wrong things, other than not paying fines brought on by a government that only has intent on making money.
Perhaps when the racism has stopped, then we can deal with those that have socially done wrong in a much better way. At this period of time, the concept of prison is far from what it should be. It is time that we reconsider what prison is meant to represent.
 Thucydides ‘History of the Peloponnesian War’, Book II, Paragraph 37.
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