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Jail is The University of Crime  -  Breeding places of criminality   Many Eminent Authorities Have Chronicled The Damage From Prison Incarceration

Below are fourteen credible investigations which conclude that Jail Is The University Of Crime; therefore counter-productive and a considerable waste of the Public Purse that rarely assists Rehabilitate humans less fortunate in the -

*        genes they received at birth; and

*        parental mentoring and education that they frequently did not receive.


1.       Prisons: Universities of Crime written by Russian, Pëtr Kropotkin, a wealth philosopher and anarchist who spent time in Russian prisons and wrote In Russian and French Prisons  - a criticism of the existence of prisons

Below is Pëtr's synopsis of his book:

“Are prisons answering their purpose, which is that of diminishing the number of antisocial acts?

To this question, every unprejudiced person who has a knowledge of prisons from the inside will certainly answer by an emphatic No. On the contrary, a serious study of the subject will bring everyone to the conclusion that the prisons — the best as much as the worst — are breeding places of criminality; that they contribute to render the antisocial acts worse and worse; that they are, in a word, the High Schools, the Universities of what is known as Crime.

Of course, I do not mean that everyone who has been once in a prison will return to it. There are thousands people sent every year to prison by mere accident. But I maintain that the effect of a couple of years of life in a prison — from the very fact of its being a prison — is to increase in the individual those defects which brought him before a law court.

These causes, being the -

1.        love of risk;

2.        dislike of work (due to an immense majority of cases to the lack of a thorough knowledge of a trade);

3.        despise of society with its injustice and hypocrisy;

4.        want of physical energy, and

5.        lack of will.

All these causes are aggravated by detention in a jail.

Five-and-twenty years ago, when I developed this idea in a book, now out of print (In Russian and French Prisons), I supported it by an examination of the facts revealed in France by an inquest made as to the numbers of recidivistes (second offense prisoners). The result of this inquest was that from two fifths to one half of all persons brought before the assizes and two fifths of all brought before the police courts had already been kept once or twice in a jail. The very dame figure of forty percent was found in this country; while according to Michael Davitt, as much as ninety-five percent of all those who are kept in penal servitude have previously received prison education.

A little reflection will show that things cannot be otherwise. A prison has, and must have, a degrading effect on its inmates. Take a man freshly brought to a jail. The moment he enters the house he is no more a human being he is “Number So and So.” He must have no more a will of his own. They put him in a fool’s dress to underline his degradation. They deprive him of every intercourse with those towards who he may have an attachment and thus exclude the action of the only element which could have a good effect upon him.

Then he is put to labour, but not to a labour that might help to his moral improvement. Prison work is made to be an instrument of base revenge. What must the prisoner think of the intelligence of these “pillars of society” who pretend by such punishments to “reform” the prisoners?

In the French prisons the inmates are given some sort of useful and paid work. But even this work is paid at a ridiculously low scale, and, according to the prison authorities, it cannot be paid otherwise. Prison work, they say, is inferior slave work. The result is that the prisoner begins to hate his work, and finishes by saying, “The real thieves are not we, but those who keep us in.”

The prisoner’s brain is thus working over and over again upon the idea of -

(a)        the injustice of a society which pardons and often respects such swindlers as so many company promoters are, and

(b)        wickedly punishes him, simply because he was not cunning enough.

And the moment he is out he takes his revenge by some offense very often much graver than his first one. Revenge breeds revenge.

The revenge that was exercised upon him, he exercises upon society. Every prison, because it is a prison, destroys the physical energy of its inmates. It acts upon them far worse than an Arctic wintering. The want of fresh air, the monotony of existence, especially the want of impressions, takes all energy out of the prisoner and produce that craving for stimulants (alcohol, coffee) which Miss Allen spoke so truthfully the other day at the Congress of the British Medical Association. And finally, while most antisocial acts can be traced to a weakness of will, the prison education is directed precisely towards killing every manifestation of will.

Worse than that. I seriously recommend to prison reformers the Prison Memoirs of Alexander Berkman, who was kept for fourteen years in an American jail and has told with great sincerity his experience. One will see from this book how every honest feeling must be suppressed by the prisoner, if he does not decide never to go out of this hell.

What can remain of a man’s will and good intentions after five or six years of such an education? And where can he go after his release, unless he returns to the very same chums whose company has brought him to the jail? They are the only ones who will receive him as an equal. But when he joins them he is sure to return to the prison in a very few months. And so he does. The jailers know it well.

I am often asked — What reforms of prison I should propose; but now, as twenty-five years ago, I really do not see how prisons could be reformed. They must be pulled down. I might say, or course: “Be less cruel, be more thoughtful of what you do.” But that would come to this: “Nominate a Pestalozzi as Governor in each prison, and sixty more Pestalozzis as warders,” which would be absurd. But nothing short of that would help.

So the only thing I could say to some quite well-intentioned Massachusetts prison officials who came once to ask my advice was this: If you cannot obtain the abolition of the prison system, then — never accept a child or a youth in your prison. If you do so, it is manslaughter. And then, after having learned by experience what prisons are, refuse to be jailers and never be tired to say that prevention of crime is the only proper way to combat it. Healthy municipal dwellings at cost price, education in the family and at school — of the parents as well as the children; the learning by every boy and girl of a trade; communal and professional co-operation; societies for all sorts of pursuits; and, above all, idealism developed in the youths the longing after what is lifting human nature to higher interests. This will achieve what punishment is absolutely incapable to do.

2.      Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist is Alexander Berkman's account of his experience in prison in Western Penitentiary of Pennsylvania, in Pittsburgh, from 1892 to 1906 due to attempted murder

"First published in 1912, it has become a classic in autobiographical literature.  Berkman's acclaimed story tracks the difficult loss of his youthful sentimental idealism as he struggled with the physical and psychological conditions of prison life, at times bringing him to the verge of suicide.  As he got to know the other prisoners, he had nothing but disdain and disgust for them as people, though he saw them as victims of an unjust system. "They are not of my world", he writes. "I would aid them", he says, being "duty bound to the victims of social injustice. But I cannot be friends with them ... they touch no chord in my heart." Gradually, though, Berkman's self-imposed distance and moral high ground begins to crumble as he comes to see the flawed humanity in everyone, including himself."

3.        Below is an extract from "We know that prisons are universities of crime. So why send more people there?" - The New Statesman UK Edition Stephen Bush - 31 January 2019

"The most successful skills training the British government provides occur in the prisons of England and Wales. Unfortunately, the upskilling that occurs doesn’t provide inmates with qualifications so they can turn away from crime once they leave, but turns shoplifters and petty criminals into drug dealers and bagmen."

4.        Below is an extract from  "Universities of Crime - Young Adults, the Criminal Justice System and Social Policy" - Transition to Adulthood Alliance - 2009

"At an age when they should be exploring options in life, building towards longer term plans and developing an idea of who they are and what they can achieve,
adult offenders are held within a system that is at best fragmented and highly problematic to navigate, and at worst risks fast-tracking them into an extended
criminal career, stripping away other options that might be open to them."

5.       Below are extracts from "Prison: a view from inside" - written by a prisoner that is serving a 5.5 year sentence in a UK prison that reflects on how his preconceptions about criminal justice have changed since entering the prison gates.

"They (inmates) have differing needs, hopes, personalities, ages, talents, nationalities, educations, family, social and professional backgrounds. All distinctions are lost upon entering prison when all reach an equal, base level. Over time prison grinds inmates down diminishing previously positive aspects of their lives. ....Conversely, prolonged prison makes future criminality more viable - detachment from social groups, institutionalisation, eroding of self-esteem all impact the already reduced alternatives of an ex-con. .....Prison is a place where both people needing (drugs) rehab and those supplying drugs to the vulnerable are sent. The combination seems doomed to fail, and it does. Drugs are widely available in prisons and heroin addiction is exploding (creating more long term addicts), partly as it's less detectable than cannabis in prison urine tests. ... Prison is a 'university of crime'... I believe there is no better place to learn about crime and become more aggressive."

6.        In 2009 the U.K. Prison Reform Trust -

           *        published figures showing some prisons are housing almost double the number of prisoners they were intended to hold; and

           *        found that overcrowded jails were not preventing re-offending with two in three prisoners are reconvicted within two years of release    

"Prison acts as a university of crime for the young," the Trust concluded, with those under 20 serving short sentences for petty crimes most likely to be reconvicted.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

"Pressure on public spending means that ministers can no longer afford to be complacent about prison overcrowding or the high reconviction rates it leads to simply building more prisons is an expensive dead end.  Investment in prevention, treatment for addicts and mental healthcare would all pay dividends. After more than 10 years of lurching from crisis to crisis it must be time for coordinated effort across departments and authoritative leadership."

Meanwhile Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Paul Holmes said: "These deeply troubling figures highlight the chronic failure of this government's prison policy.

"Labour's obsession with sounding tough on crime has left our prisons dangerously overcrowded with sky-high re-offending rates.  Ministers must realise the bankruptcy of their approach and focus instead on what works."

However a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said:

        "We will always provide enough prison places for serious and persistent offenders.

         The Government is pursuing an extensive building programme to expand the prison estate and expect to deliver an additional 1,750 places in 2009.  This is intended to provide us with sufficient space to modernise the estate and ensure prisons remain places of both punishment and reform."

The most overcrowded prison in England and Wales, according to official figures, is Shrewsbury, which currently holds 316 men, despite being designed to hold just 177.

Earlier in the year the government was forced to scrap plans to build so-called Titan prisons in the face of widespread condemnation from opposition and reform groups.

7.       Renowned Professor of Criminology at Liverpool John Moores University, Joe Sim, contends that the prison system does not meet its stated aims to rehabilitate, deter and incapacitate offenders.  In a video and the below two publications Joe Sim makes the case for a more humane and effective system:

          *        Liverpool: A Broken Prison in a Broken System - Joe Sim is Professor of Criminology, Liverpool John Moores University

          *        Punishment and prisons -- leading criminologist argues for a new way of thinking -

8.       Many aspects of the prison environment are impediments to rehabilitation extracts the section titled "REHABILITATION " in SOCIETY’S RESPONSE TO THE VIOLENT OFFENDER - Australian Institute of Criminology which re-enforces that treatment of criminals is an exceedingly complex issue that ideally has to be tailored according to the plethora of factors that influenced the particular crime, particularly as "for well over a century, prisons have been referred to as 'schools of crime'."

9.       The existing practice of congregating Muslim radical extremists, ensnared by the ISIS ideology of do-it-yourself violence, at Goulburn's Supermax is a bomb counting down to explode when they are eventually released

         Prisons and detention centres are breeding grounds for criminality (The Australian - JULY 27, 2016) evidences that segregating Muslim extremists, in particular at Goulburn's Supermax, is gross negligence in the extreme, as eventually many of these impressionable prisoners will seek revenge for their treatment whilst incarcerated amongst those with a similar mindset. 

        "But as SuperMax starts disgorging its inmates, the risk to the community will be profound. None of this is the fault of Piazza and his staff. They are not social workers. They are prison officers whose job is to protect the community, something they do exceptionally well and under the most trying conditions. But thinking of the rangy Lebanese boy with the chest full of tatts prowling his cell like a caged animal, it is difficult not to believe we are kicking the can down the road.  What happens when we get to the end?"

           The solution is to place many of these impressionable young men amongst humans that hold different beliefs than they hold, coupled with education and rehabilitation into paid work opportunities.

10.        Below is an extract from Evil killer, Robert Arthur Selby Lowe, running jail sex ring  HeraldSun  - December 2010 in Ararat prison, Victoria:

           "A PRISON source says staff can't stop technology smuggling after it was revealed that an evil child killer is running a depraved sex ring from inside one of Victoria's jails Robert Arthur Selby Lowe, who is serving a life sentence for the abduction, rape and murder of six-year-old Sheree Beasley, has recruited a gang of villains to smuggle child porn into Ararat prison."

11        Global drug trafficking operation run out of Villawood detention centre, phone taps reveal  Four Corners  - Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop,  ABC Four Corners - 11 Feb 2019

12.        Prisons and detention centres are breeding grounds for criminality (The Australian - JULY 27, 2016) 

"There are no votes in prison reform so the political axiom goes, but there should be.

Prisons are breeding grounds for criminality and any young person who is detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure for a period of time runs the risk of returning to the community as a more dangerous individual than they were when they first were locked up. The longer the period the greater the risk.

The tough on crime push speaks of locking people away where they can do no harm, but when that detention runs the risk of turning street criminals into something far more lethal, we need to examine the nature and conditions of our prisons.

It should come as no surprise to learn the most appalling men in our recent criminal history, mass murderers, contract killers, gangsters, gunmen, traders in heroin on a vast commercial scale, were products of a youth detention system where violence, physical and sexual abuse were commonplace.

We can have a tough on crime mentality and lock up offenders in brutal institutions or we can have a cohesive, functioning society. The punishers among us need to understand we can’t have both.

The redeemers need to appreciate their efforts do not always bear fruit. People commit crimes for all sorts of reasons. Poverty is a clearly a key factor. But those, including the criminal luminaries mentioned above, brutalised and monstered as youth in state run or sponsored youth facilities, chose to continue to commit violence on society. What makes a criminal is a complex and demanding question but the best answer is a combination of nature, nurture and choice.

For all that, what the redeemers offer is a better and cheaper solution that seeks to mitigate the vast social costs of the cycle of crime. Locking people away, especially children, out of sight in grim, violent oppressive facilities is a recipe for disaster."

13.   Government ineptitude over many years has resulted in overcrowded jails and reoffending on a huge scale – The UK Guardian – 25 Feb 2018

14.    The impact of incarceration on juvenile offenders ScienceDirect  -  April 2013


Increasingly, research points to the negative effects of incarcerating youth offenders, particularly in adult facilities. Literature published since 2000 suggests that incarceration fails to meet the developmental and criminogenic needs of youth offenders and is limited in its ability to provide appropriate rehabilitation. Incarceration often results in negative behavioral and mental health consequences, including ongoing engagement in offending behaviors and contact with the justice system. Although incarceration of youth offenders is often viewed as a necessary means of public protection, research indicates that it is not an effective option in terms of either cost or outcome. The severe behavioral problems of juvenile offenders are a result of complex and interactive individual and environmental factors, which elicit and maintain offending behavior. Therefore, the focus of effective treatment must be on addressing such criminogenic needs and the multiple “systems” in which the young person comes from. Recent research demonstrates that in order to achieve the best outcomes for youth offenders and the general public, community-based, empirically supported intervention practices must be adopted as an alternative to incarceration wherever possible.


► Incarcerating youth in prison has little positive impact in reducing crime.
► The literature highlights this problem, particularly in adult facilities.
► There are many negative effects from incarcerating young people in prisons.
Incarceration fails to address both the young person's developmental and criminogenic needs