Prison Treatment Programs From an International Perspective

Prison Treatment Programs From an International Perspective

Stefano Cesari (Italian Ministry of Justice, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1286-9.ch021
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The generalized use of imprisonment to meet the need for security witnessed by the high rates of incarceration in countries such as the United States makes it necessary to question sentences, seeking to shape them so that they actually pursue the purposes indicated by international resources. In harmony with the model proposed by international resources for which detention can actually constitute a period capable of facilitating re-entry into society, in the chapter, some local experiences regarding the treatment of prisoners will be discussed. The reduction of recourse to the precautionary measure of deprivation of liberty is a good practice to limit the detained population. As for the methods of treatment within the prison walls, a penitentiary model based on the empowerment of the prisoner and on the recovery of his or her social, family, and work dimensions seems the only way to legitimize the deprivation of freedom beyond a logic of mere suppression.
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Before going into the analysis of international and European legislation on the rehabilitation of the author of a crime, it is mandatory to dwell briefly on some theoretical aspects which come from socio-criminological literature (Sette, 2017, pp. 104-118).

Rehabilitation is a model inspired by Positivism and which shifts attention from the crime to the offender, the latter becoming the only “object” of knowledge.

A positivistic vision of the State is therefore asserted, which takes on the duty of organizing the actions which, as well as for purposes of social defense, have to be taken for the directed to the convict to “free him” from the condition that led him to commit crimes. In relation to crime, it is believed that the mere negative action (punishment) as well as mere neutrality (defense) are not sufficient methods and this is based on the presupposition that criminality and the crime rate can be significantly reduced only by establishing the conditions that produce them and then changing these conditions (Sutherland, 1994, p. 946).

Therefore, the modern state, as well as the demands of retribution, theorized by the Classical School, in a constant attempt to maintain order, tends to shift its objective towards the resocialization of the perpetrators of crimes (Balloni, Bisi & Sette, 2015, p. 24). The offender is thus subjected to specific prison “treatment”; over time, techniques, juridical institutions and non-detention punishments have been perfected. The last-mentioned developed initially in countries of common law from as early as the end of the 19th century through the practice of probation.

It is to be remembered that the Positivist School developed in open contrast with the previous approach of the Classical School, according to which criminal law represents the main instrument of formal social control and prevention (general and special). This change of paradigm is due to the fact that, in the passage from the 18th century of the Enlightenment to the 19th century of the Positive School, it was the world that had changed (following industrialization, urbanization and mass immigration) and the rational explanation of deviance was no longer capable of interpreting these social phenomena or of preparing efficient strategies of control, prevention and treatment of social pathologies (Dal Lago, 2000, pp. 52-53).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Probation: Relates to the implementation in the community of sanctions and measures, defined by law and imposed on an offender. It includes a range of activities and interventions, which involve supervision, guidance and assistance aiming at the social inclusion of an offender, as well as at contributing to community safety.

Social Reintegration of Offenders: Includes programs to supervise and assist offenders in social adaptation after imprisonment.

Decriminalization: Cease or reduce to treat something as illegal or as a crime.

Probation Agency: Any bodies designated by law to implement the above tasks and responsibilities. Depending on the national system, the work of a probation agency may also include providing information and advice to judicial and other deciding authorities to help them reach informed and just decisions; providing guidance and support to offenders while in custody in order to prepare their release and resettlement; monitoring and assistance to persons subject to early release; restorative justice interventions; and offering assistance to victims of crime.

Community Sanction: The restrictive measure through which to maintain the offender in society, also thanks to the imposition of conditions and obligations, according to a precise personalized program.

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