Prison as a social institution is an ambiguous phenomenon for society. On the one hand, this is a place for punishment of criminals, which is associated with danger and negativity. On the other hand, it is an element of influencing society in such a way that the guilty citizens get the opportunity to correct themselves and pay the debt to society. However, for an objective analysis of the prison, it is necessary to consider it from several sociological points of view. With the help of a functionalist approach, it becomes clear that the prison as an institution performs a number of legal functions. The main ones are re-educational and restraining, but this is an innovation. Over the past few decades, the prison, as well as the system of punishments, has changed, which is noticeable when comparing the main tasks of the prison. Previously, the main goal of this institution was the punitive process, that is, the punishment for committed misconduct. Nevertheless, humane and democratic principles had a positive effect on this social institution.
From an interactionist point of view, the prison plays a big role in modern society as a whole, and not just for criminals. Firstly, this is explained by the fact that people in prison have families, friends and social circles. Thus, the experience is extrapolated to the broad masses, being introduced into the culture of the nation (Reiman 83). Second, there is a strong desire among citizens to stay out of prison by improving their own quality of life and keeping the law. Therefore, from this point of view, the prison can also be interpreted as a useful social institution.
However, there is a third point of view regarding labeling, this aspect is the most difficult as it involves people of different races and social classes. Due to statistics, cinematography and prison stereotypes, certain social groups are subject to prejudice, which leads to labeling. Even 15 years ago, black citizens were associated with robbers and gangsters, and at the moment this problem is relevant for Mexicans (Reiman 117). Moreover, such stereotypes also apply to the segments of the population that do not have a large income. In the minds of society, it is fixed that such citizens are potential criminals. This is an extremely negative consequence of the prison, with which the state needs to fight.
Reiman, Jeffrey H. (1997). Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison: Ideology, Crime, and Criminal Justice. U. S. Department of Justice.