KUALA LUMPUR: A prison, which is meant for the reform of criminals, might just be doing the opposite to its inmates.
It can be a place for acquiring the wrong set of knowledge and skills, especially for non-serious offenders incarcerated for the first time.
Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) research team on crime and policing head Assoc Prof Datuk Dr P. Sundramoorthy (pix) told theSun yesterday that prisonisation, or prison socialisation, has hindered rehabilitation and treatment of inmates.
He said in recent years, prisons have been described as a breeding ground for radicalisation that might eventually lead to extremism.
Sundramoorthy said placing light offenders and white-collar criminals in the same environment and premises as hardcore criminals is a dangerous move.
“Prisonisation is the process of being socialised into the culture and social life of prison to the extent that adjusting to society outside prison becomes challenging,” the criminologist said.
“It also forms a unique prison subculture, known as the ‘inmate code’ where inmates share common values, norms and beliefs.
“Among the many ‘codes’, inmates display loyalty to each other and share their experiences on criminal skills and knowledge among themselves. They also establish a tight network with inmates and upon their release, they form criminal gangs and collude with each other.”
Sundramoorthy said there is a need for a policy to establish a probation and pre-sentence investigation department to evaluate convicted offenders of non-serious crimes by not sending them to prison, but allow them to return to society under specific and strict conditions.
He said the purpose of a pre-sentence investigation report on an offender is to provide the court with extensive personal information and criminal history prior to executing a sentence.
“We do not have the luxury of building specific prisons for white-collar criminals, first-time offenders or light offenders,” he said.
“The solution is to put them on probation and return them to society under specific conditions.
“It is time we refrain from placing offenders of all classes in a single penitentiary.”
From the findings of the police, prisons have turned shoe thieves into serial robbers.
Over the years, it was found that a high number of members of high-profile robbery gangs and militant groups had admitted to have been recruited by hardline offenders during incarceration.
This article first appeared on The Sun Daily.