Essay on Open Prison System in Californian!
A number of open prison camps were operating in Massachusetts and California in U.S.A. as early as 1915. The real beginning of these institutions can be traced back to the year 1935 when a Californian legislation suggested radical changes in prison reforms. It was decided that prisoners should be treated as human beings and that the hopeful cases should be separated from the hardened ones.
It was further suggested that prisoners capable of moral rehabilitation and restoration to good citizenship should be segregated from the hardened offenders. With a view to implementing this policy, a farm-type institution with suitable lodging and provision for work was proposed near the town of Chino in South California. The project was under the direction of State Board of Prison Directors.
But the Prison Board showed little zeal for minimum security arrangement in prison-farms and preferred the old conventional method of maximum security arrangement in these penal institutions. It was in 1938 that after a serious riot in San Quentin prison, the appointment of a new Prison Board was proposed to convert this farm into a minimum security institution.
The appointment of Kenyon J. Scudder as the Superintendent of open institution for men at Chino (California) brought about a radical change in the administration of open prisons. Ignorant and untrained guards were replaced by qualified and trained young personnel. Scudder’s philosophy was that there can be no regeneration except in freedom.
The rehabilitation must come from within the individual and not through coercion. The California institution for men was opened on July 10, 1941 with thirty-four convicts and three officials. The number subsequently rose to over 2500, of whom many were lodged in forestery camps administered by the institution. The number of escapes from these prisons was negligible, ranging from 4 to 1 per cent.
The Declaration of Principles of the American Correctional Association (1960) spelt out the philosophy of open peno-correctional institutions as follows:—
(1) No law, procedure or system of correction should deprive any offender of the hope and possibility of his ultimate return to responsible membership of the society.
(2) In order to ensure restoration of the offender to the community as a self-restraining member, he must be extended every opportunity to raise his “educational level, improve vocational skills and add to his information meaningful knowledge’s about the world and the society in which he lives.
(3) It would be gross violation of the concept of rehabilitation, if employable offenders in correctional institutions are not offered opportunity to be engaged in productive work.
(4) The open peno-institution underlies the importance of group approach to the problem of correctional treatment of offenders.
(5) In the course of open peno-institutional treatment, the offender continues as a member of the correctional community so that he can develop within him the spirit of energetic, resourceful and organised citizen participation.