Prison acts as a place of restraining people who break the law in society. Thus, correctional facilities have become an essential tool in ensuring people obey laws and regulations. The British society began shifting from physical punishment to imprisonment with an aim of transforming criminals both spiritually and physically which rise to prisons. A penitentiary or a prison can be termed as a place where criminals are dispossessed of a variety of own liberty through incarceration. The United States having attained independence from England, the British did not have a colony for imprisoning individuals, thus, they started the conviction system. Since then, the idea of imprisonment has spread globally as a formal way of rehabilitating criminals. The prisoner serves a jail term, which is a legal penalty obligatory by the state. However, legal systems term both jail and prison differently based on duration served by the offender. The state manages the prisons and holds criminals serving long-term penalties. On the other hand, jails are used to hold offenders awaiting trial for a short time. The major role of a prison is to reform criminals to acceptable norms of the society. Therefore, an ideal prison should establish a correction mechanism that focuses on changing criminals to upstanding citizens.
This paper examines the historical change in prison systems during the World War II and after the World War II and compares the two.
In ancient times, the form of punishment granted to prisoners was slaughtering or enslaving them, which contrasts to the modern way of punishment, which entails rehabilitation of prisoners. Moreover, lawbreakers are sentenced according to the law. During ancient times prison systems treated lawbreakers differently. Some systems followed the international agreement and treated prisoners according to its requirements while others like Japan, which did not consent to the agreement, did not conform to it. Additionally, the Chinese utterly abandoned the constraints of The Hague Conventions imposed on their prisoners. Japan subjected its western prisoners to murder, whipping and cruel treatment such as forced labor, medical experimentation and starvation. Tokyo tribunal revealed that the fatality rate of western prisoners in Japan was seven times compared to that of German while that of Chinese was exorbitant.
German and Italy followed the Geneva Convention (1929) in treating their prisoners who were mainly the British Commonwealth countries that had agreed to this convention. As a result, western allied officers were exempted from work and lower rank personnel benefited from compensation. The main complaint that arose to western allied prisoners was food shortages. The Jewish western allied prisoners were subjected to murder or anti-Semitic policies while the allied personnel were sent to concentration camps for various reasons. German applied different grounds on prisoners from non-western countries such as Polish and Soviet. For example, many Soviet prisoners captured between 1941 and 1945 were set free during the World War II but remained under German’s captivity, while some died. Bunyak (2005) points out that Germans took advantage of the Soviet Union abandoning the Geneva Convention and treated the prisoners from the Soviet cruelly, which was not lawful. Various sources admit that the Soviets also captured servicemen during the battle of Stalingrad and the majority of them died. The German soldiers that survived were used as a source of labor.
Canada, Australia, UK, and US strictly embraced the Geneva Convention though quite a number of breaches occurred, in that, some US soldiers killed German prisoners. After German’s surrender in the World War II in 1945, German prisoners were subjected to forced labor in countries such as the UK and France in which some died in Norway.
The impact of prison labor is diverse and immense in nature. For instance, it is considered cheap when prisoners provide the labor. The reality is that many industries rely on this plentiful labor force given by the prisoners in America. Ram (1981) indicates that being an employed prisoner is much better than being jobless. Prison labor has also influenced negatively the wardens’ numbers. This is because work functions as a management tool. Work ensures that prisoners have a productive day and reduces boredom that results from being locked all day. Evidently, boredom is a motivator to prisoners to consider escaping. Thus, the wardens are saved the burden of monitoring the prisoners.
The present prison system is comprised of a more sophisticated mechanism of correcting criminals and efficient way of managing as compared to those that existed before and during the World War II. The way prisoners are treated has improved due to the establishment of government regulations that protect the rights of prisoners. The current prison system addresses the issue of rehabilitation more than punishment as viewed in the World War II prisons, due to the varying nature of criminal offenses. The society needs to confront issues such as drug abuse and violence instead of incarcerating those who are the most susceptible to commit crimes because prison has emerged as the only way of delivering punishment. Ram (1981) asserts that in a civilized community, prisons are necessary since it is a prodigious source of employment; therefore, it is difficult to picture the world without it. Mass imprisonment is deeply rooted in humanity to the extent that we do not recognize offenders who are racists or sexists.
Another up-coming trend in prison systems is the prison privatization, which refers to the shift of control or management of public prisons to private companies. Private companies are usually given contracts by the Federal to build, run and maintain new facilities. Bailey (2001) points out that the idea of prison privatization can be compared to the system employed by the southern states, which concentrate on hiring out prisoners to work in plantations and mining. In this case, the private companies bear the responsibility of caring, housing and the security of prisoners. As a result, the cost of running the prison by the government was reduced while, at the same time, income per inmate was earned. Consequently, this system became overwhelmed with corruption and prison escapes, which were common. Another aspect of prison privatization was the racial characteristic. Most convicts were Africans who had committed minor offenses and were serving long-term sentences. Due to this aspect, this system was termed as a means of suppressing African Americans. Current privatization is extremely dissimilar from the previous one employed by the past generations. The state and local authorities pay firms and legal, private companies to house and provide care to prisoners in a humanely manner and provide high-class services in public prisons.
In conclusion, imprisonment is still the main form of punishing criminals during the World War II and after. Today’s society embraces it but with greater advancement, which includes rehabilitation schemes. Prison labor has its own benefit to state because it facilitates the provision of cheap labor to industries, hence, increasing profits to industries that deploy this form of labor. Apart from cheap labor, convicts are transformed to become productive citizens rather than spending useful time in isolation. This implies that both spiritual and corporal punishment is necessary in the reformation process of a criminal. Both the ancient and modern prison systems carried out prison privatization but in different forms. The ancient sold prisoners as slaves while the modern lease out prisoners. The old system varies from the current one because the current system has respect for humanity.