Inside Justice: A Comparative Analysis of Practices and Procedures for the Determination of Offenses against Discipline in Prisons of Britain and the United States

By Bayard Marin | Go to book overview

11 Conclusion

Summary

This has been a long journey. Indeed, virtually every means of modern travel and communication has been utilized to complete the research for it. We have gone down many paths, often reaching unsatisfactory termini. But this writer did not promise a happy journey.

Means of controlling prisoners' behavior have been pondered since the first person was detained against his will. Administrative changes in prison procedures and judicial review thereof lag demonstrably behind those ouside the walls. Methods for determining prison offenses in Britain have not changed very greatly in the last 200 years. While Americans employed new methods of dealing with prisoners, sometimes emulated by the British, no claims can be made that American methods contributed significantly to making imprisonment more humane. Indeed, the history of prison regimes in both America and Britain is pocked by notable instances of inhumanity, often occurring in the name of reform.

We looked at the administrative framework for offense determination. Particularly noteworthy was the degree to which procedural elements for offense determination in both Britain and the United States are delegated downward throughout the respective systems. In Britain the specter of official secrecy casts a shadow over the whole process.

We looked at offenses and related them to the prison environment and aims of imprisonment. We similarly discussed punishment practices. It is difficult to reconcile prison offenses and punishments with goals other than security, good order, and control. Regardless of whether or not offenses and punishments relate well to legitimate prison goals, they are difficult to change and the alternatives have potentially adverse human rights consequences, perhaps worse than those of the unimaginative practices of the past.

We saw basic differences between Britain and the United States in the organization, selection, and background of the adjudicators. In Britain, prison governors hear the cases at first and dispose of most themselves. More serious cases are referred to Boards of Visitors or Visiting Committees. In the United States cases are almost always heard by internal committees.

The hearing procedures were then set forth concluding with this writer's observations of several hearings. Then, after discussing some basic constitutional comparisons, we began analysis of punishments, practices, and procedures as seen by the courts and other bodies. We discovered that in both Britain and United States there has been a long history of judicial reluctance to review intraprison determinations. However, American courts have been extremely busy with prison cases since the mid 1960s. While there had been no dramatic changes in the British version of "hands off" until recent years, the St. Germain case and cases before

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