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The role of prison in criminal justice and its impacts

Some people automatically think about prison when they hear someone is facing criminal charges. While it is true that prison is one of the primary forms of punishments handed down in the criminal justice system, there are some human rights issues that the United Nations and others have raised about this practice.

There are negative impacts that come with imprisonment. For some cases, having the defendant placed in prison is deemed necessary for public safety. This is often the thought for violent crimes, such as murder or assault with a deadly weapon. Still, placing the person in confinement with other people who have been convicted of crimes might not be the best rehabilitation method.

Societal cost of imprisonment

Communities pay for these prisoners to be placed in confinement. The funds used to pay the costs of having a person locked up come from taxes, but might also be supported by fines and court costs that people pay when they are convicted of crimes. Providing everything a prisoner needs is expensive, so communities could reduce the cost of the criminal justice system by using alternative methods of punishments like probation.

Families can pay the price

One issue that is raised often in prisoners' rights forums but that the public doesn't usually think of is how imprisonment relates to poverty. When a person who has been bringing an income into the home is sent to prison, that income stops.

This can have a negative impact on the person's family even though they didn't commit any crimes. The children can suffer, not only from the financial impact of having a parent in prison but also from the social stigma that comes from this situation.

The disproportionate impact that incarceration has on people who live in poverty can be long-lasting. There is often an endless cycle of the person going to prison, coming home to the continued or worsening poverty, and then trying to make money in any way they can, which leads them back to prison.

Impacts on prisoners

While it is often understandable that prisoners might have to deal with negative conditions, there must be limits on what they must endure. Some live in conditions that aren't appropriate for living beings. There is also a risk of serious medical issues, such as hepatitis, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, malnutrition and similar conditions.

These are present even if the prisoner was healthy when they entered the system. However, many people go in with existing health problems. Because of inadequate health care that plagues many prison systems, some people go without care when needed, which can have a lasting impact on their health.

People facing criminal charges often focus on avoiding prison sentences. If you think a conviction is likely in your case, your focus should be minimizing the amount of time you will be behind bars.

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