In the case of a serious offence, it is usually open to the court to send the offender to prison. Imprisonment has four main uses:
- public safety - to protect the community for a period of time by removing a person who infringes its rules
- deterrence - to deter people, by fear of the consequences, from committing offences
- retribution - to punish an offender for the wrong committed
- rehabilitation - so that, at the end of the period of imprisonment, the offender may return to society as a law abiding citizen.
As far as rehabilitation is concerned, most of the evidence suggests that prison does not achieve this goal. Many prisoners feel that they are simply put away and forgotten and that, for the general public, it is a case of out of sight, out of mind. Winston Churchill said:
'the mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country'.
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