THE EFFECTS OF LONG-TERM IMPRISONMENT. A.J.W. (Tony) Taylor Victoria University of Wellington. Abstract. Purpose of prisons – to change the behaviour of the majority of inmates through retaliation or reformation
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A.J.W. (Tony) Taylor
Victoria University of Wellington
- adapted from George Santayana
resolute appraisal of data
‘The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilization of any country. A calm and dispassionate recognition of the rights….even of the convicted criminal against the State,... [and] tireless [efforts] towards the discovery of curative and regenerative processes,… mark and measure the stored up strength of a nation, and are the sign and proof of the living virtue in it’
(House of Commons 20th July 1910)
In 1846 Dr Lauvergne (cf. Bourdet-Pléville, 1960, p. 70): in the bagnes in the 1830s:
‘The wearing away of personality is the central effect of prison life…The absence of all choice, of the need or the opportunity to make decisions, resulted in really weakened will-power in some cases when the men at last emerged. They found they could not decide anything, even when to cross the street. It was some time before they ceased to feel like sheep in a flock. The will atrophied’.
The Webbs (1922)
‘its hard to define…like being locked in a prison.
…came down expecting wide open spaces. I get angry and tired… miss the green and the blue something terrible…it makes me unhappy…. ..
I would like to see some free water and the sea … there is nothing but endless white and endless black’.
legislators and prison architects were planning and constructing too many ‘monolithic maximum-security installations’. Even at that time, they saw that the ‘dead hand of the past [demanded] that massive piles of stone concrete and steel with all the modern security gadgets be built even though…only a bare twenty per cent of those sent to prison [required] maximum security. The frenzy for security and custody [was] costing the taxpayer millions of dollars’.
1930s and 1940s, Royal Commissions in Britain and Canada acknowledged mental deterioration in prisoners but regarded it as unacceptable
In 1943 the International Red Cross Committee (IRCC) recognised the condition in prisoners of war when recommending priority in repatriation be given to those ‘whose mental and physical condition appears
to be endangered by prolonged imprisonment,
and to the ‘aged prisoners who have endured