There is little doubt in most societies and religious traditions that prison is necessary, but with many religious believers focussing REFORM there is a need to look inside our prisons and figure out why re-offending rates are so high. Remember the Nelson Mandela quote:
Many people, including many Christians, are campaigning for reform of prisons to make them more suitable to REFORM prisoners, cut the re-offending rate, educate prisoners and release them back into society to life more productive lives.
Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845) was a Quaker (member of the Society of Friends) and campaigned in the 19th century for improvements to Newgate women’s prison when conditions had been particularly bad. If you are interested in the state of Victorian prisons reading Bleak House and The Pickwick Papers (both by Charles Dickens) will give you an idea of conditions inside 19th century prisons as well as the differences between prisons for men and women and for the rich and the poor. It is these conditions that Fry succeeded in changing. This contribution is seen as so valuable today that you can find Fry on the back of every five-pound-note!
Today there are movements like the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prison Reform Trust who are trying to improve conditions for prisoners. Their main focus is creating conditions where prisoners get the help they need in order to REFORM. This can be ending over-crowding so that prisoners do not become depressed, resentful or give up on life outside the prison or can be working to get proper psychiatric help for prisoners who need it to re-enter society.