Sample Essay On Penal Systems In Sociology

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Punishment, Crime, Criminal Justice, Perspective, Prison, Development, Society, People

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/12/10


It is always thought that Total institutions are to rectify one's behavior and bring them back to the society as people that are acceptable and well adapted. Goffman gives quite a different analysis and perspective of Total Institution. Ideally he gives five distinctions of total institutions. The five institutions include those that are meant to care for persons thought to be incapable and harmless. This group includes the aged, the blind and the indigent. The second institution is one that takes care of people that are thought to be incapable of taking care of themselves and are a threat to the society. Such include patients with TB and mentally challenged people. The third kind of institution is one that is meant to protect the society from people that are thought to be a threat to it. This institution includes the jails, POW camps, penitentiaries, Concentration camp. The fourth group is the one that is established with the aim of carrying out some technical tasks. Such groups include the Army barracks, boarding schools, ships, works camp and colonial compounds amongst others. The last group is one that is established to make people abstain from the world or religious training stations. Such include monasteries, cloisters, and convents. The major focus of this article is on institutions that are established to protect society from dangerous people or people that are thought to be a threat to it. The major focus is on prisons or Total Institutions.
The idea of developing Total Institutions has developed over centuries. (Lynch) mentions that among the first public building were prisons. That in Boston people saw the need to have house detention centers yet the city had only 40 homes. But the concept of prison has changed and advanced over the years and most probably the 18th century was the apex of this development. Goffman's concept of total institutions and his perspective of what this institution should be, bring quite a diverse and new understanding on what this institution are. If this theory could have been applied in the past centuries when the concept of imprisonment was developing, then it could have affected quite a number of things. Most notably the concept could have affected the change from the chaotic Georgian jails to stark Quaker Pennsylvanians prisons, the Australians prison colonies, the transition from strict Auburn models to Modern Big house of the 1960s and the experimental designs of Borstals Elmira Reformatory and Norfolk Prion Colony.
Goffman’s ideas could have affected most of the Total institutions restructuring processes that were carried out in the past. The first thing that could have been considered in the restructuring is to make sure that the new institutions have a mortification process. The mortification process was to help the inmates get to the understanding that they have been stripped off all the privileges and the things they used to take for granted when they were outside “the walls”. With this process, the ruling class in the 18th century could not have looked at the prisoners as simply a people who could not be rehabilitated. The perspective could have made the ruling class realize that what they needed was just to strip the prisoners then get them through the disorganization process, colonize them and finally and convert them. This knowledge greatly informed and affected the process of the transition from strict Auburn models to the modern “Big Houses” of the 1960s. It was through this strategy that the authorities learned that the harsh and the disheartening treatment in the prisons only developed resentment and hate feelings among the inmates. These are the feeling that they took back to the society once they came out. It is with this perspective that authority’s sought to embrace Goffman’s perspective in order just to change the inmates and ensure that they get out of the prisoner as better people. Basing on some of the ideas that Goffman articulated, some for the systems such as the “separate and silent” and “congregate yet silent” could never have seen the light of the day. The Total Institutions could have been used to correct the inmates and not to turn them from criminals to hard criminals. The same could have applied in the experimental designs of Borstals, Elmira Reformatory, and the Norfolk Prison Colony.

Assignment two

Punishment is the complex system that is supposed to repulse and counter bad behavior in the society. The way punishment is administered plays a vital role in determining how effective the punishment can be. David Garland develops various perspectives on this issue and shows the necessity for its use when administering punishment. Gerald explains four major theories or perspective of understanding and explaining punishment. He mentions that from a sociological perspective punishment is a couple social institutions that are assembled by social and historical forces that have a range of effects that go beyond the offender’s population. The four major perspectives that arise are the Durkheim perspective, Marxist theory Foucault’s theory and the Norbert Elias theory. A critical analysis of this perspective reflects their development and how they have shaped the development of penology and penal policy from antiquity to the Georgian era, and from the Georgian era into the mid-twentieth century
Emile Durkheim views punishment from the perspective that is a moral process that is used to shape and preserve the socially shared values that social life is based on. This perspective is known as the punishment and social solidarity. Punishment is simply a social institution drawing its values and moral strength from the community. The fact that the society forms the basis for punishment makes the wider population to feel that they are part of the punishment and thus they offer their support to state institutions as they offer or rather administer punishment. Nevertheless, there were many efforts to make the punishment impassive, rational and a utilitarian process, but there was still a feeling that punishment is marked with punitive statements. Durkheim argues that punishment is not majorly focused on the individual offender, but rather the onlookers or the society that feels like their moral values have been faulted. Such mindset is what dominated the early forms of punishment and penal policy. (Lynch) mentions that early forms of punishment were cruel and only escalated the rate of crime in the city of Boston. For instance, when every crime was punishment with a capital punishment, a thief saw no reason that deterred them from killing any witness to the crime. This is the reason that crusaders campaigned against this penal policy and over the year capital punishment was only given to murders.
Marxist perspective on punishment focuses solely on the economic perspective of punishment. In his perspective, there is need to consider the political, economic determinants of punishment. As well, there is a need to focus on the role of penal institutions in the struggles of class rule. This perspective seeks to challenge the early forms of punishment and especially imprisonment where the poor could be jailed because of failures to pay their debts. Such kind of punishments served no to value in the society since there was no way a person in jail could have raised money to pay the debt. The argument presented here is that punishment is only used to the benefits of the political class. At times, what influenced penal institution are the labor markets. From this perspective, one can see how faulted penal policies of the 17th and 18th centuries were skewed. It was the efforts of some movements such as the Pennsylvania Quakers that saw the change in the application of the death penalty. As well, it was around this time that the Americans sort to rethink the function of punishment on the basis of political, practical theological and philosophical grounds. It is such perspective that David Garland seems to base his argument. He clearly shows that Marxist perspective only tries to show how penal institution found themselves caught up in the divisions of power and shaped by the political and economic structures.
Michel Foucault seeks to analyze penal policy from the precincts of power, punishment, and knowledge. Foucault presents an insight into the main operations and technologies of power that act as the main tools of operation of penal policies. Fault shows the shift from the public administration of punishment to the time when the court and jail took over. It is through this perspective that David argues that punishment in the modern society is aimed at changing the soul and not just causing pain to the body. The change of the penal technology from the scaffold to the penitentiary greatly signifies the change in the character of justice.
In a nutshell, David demonstrates the various perspectives that have shaped the culture and the administration of punishment. Penal policies have developed over the years from simply the application of pain to the transformation of one’s character. Today penal policies focus their effort in reforming the offenders, and this is quite distinct from the early forms of punishment. The history of punishment is quite long and as seen it has progressed through various generation.

Work Cited

Lynch, Jack. 'Cruel And Unusual: Prisons And Prison Reform : The Colonial Williamsburg Official History & Citizenship Site'. N.p., 2015. Web. 6 Mar. 2015.

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