What Is Prison Good For?

Description

Many of us are eager to critique the prison system, but before doing so, we should consider the
functions that prison was designed to perform. What useful purpose (or purposes) could the
prison system serve? Ideally, what benefits could a prison system provide for society?
Some possible functions of prison include punishment, rehabilitation, deterrence, retribution, or
ensuring the safety of the rest of society. However, these aren’t the only possible functions.
Should prisons, for example, generate a profit as recompense for the justice system’s time and
effort? Should they serve as a model of our nation’s values and an example for other societies?
Assignment: Write a 3-5 page paper that articulates your stance on the purpose of
imprisonment. You must support your argument with source material. You must use at least one
quote from our class reading and at least one quote from a credible outside source. Your paper
MUST include MLA-style citations for all sources you use (both in-text and a Works Cited
sheet).
Remember, this is an argument. It is not enough to declare that the prison system should punish
inmates and deter crime – you must explain why punishment and deterrence should be the
primary functions of prison. If you would like to argue that the prison system serves NO useful
purpose, and that imprisonment should not be used as a response to crime, you may do so – but
this is a much harder argument to support, and you should come see me for guidance.

ENGL 102
Instructor: Aiden James Kosciesza
Paper #1 Assignment Sheet
English 102 Paper #1: What Is Prison Good For?
Many of us are eager to critique the prison system, but before doing so, we should consider the
functions that prison was designed to perform. What useful purpose (or purposes) could the
prison system serve? Ideally, what benefits could a prison system provide for society?
Some possible functions of prison include punishment, rehabilitation, deterrence, retribution, or
ensuring the safety of the rest of society. However, these aren’t the only possible functions.
Should prisons, for example, generate a profit as recompense for the justice system’s time and
effort? Should they serve as a model of our nation’s values and an example for other societies?
Assignment: Write a 3-5 page paper that articulates your stance on the purpose of
imprisonment. You must support your argument with source material. You must use at least one
quote from our class reading and at least one quote from a credible outside source. Your paper
MUST include MLA-style citations for all sources you use (both in-text and a Works Cited
sheet).
Remember, this is an argument. It is not enough to declare that the prison system should punish
inmates and deter crime – you must explain why punishment and deterrence should be the
primary functions of prison. If you would like to argue that the prison system serves NO useful
purpose, and that imprisonment should not be used as a response to crime, you may do so – but
this is a much harder argument to support, and you should come see me for guidance.
Common errors to avoid:
 DO NOT write a history of the prison system. Your paper is an argument, not a report.
 DO NOT write a critique of the problems with America’s prison system, or the ways in
which it fails to live up to its purpose. That’s what we’ll do in Paper #2.
 DO NOT propose solutions that would align current American prisons with your ideal
vision of prison. You’ll have that opportunity in Paper #3.
To be successful, you must:
 Follow the assignment formatting requirements (see Files > Syllabus and Important
Documents > 2. Assignment Formatting Requirements)
 Write a minimum of three full pages (not counting Works Cited sheet)
 Clearly articulate your view with a strong thesis statement
 Keep your paper focused and organized by writing strong topic sentences for every
paragraph
 Include at least one quote from our class reading and one quote from an outside source
 Use signal phrases to integrate quotations into your writing
 Cite the sources you used in MLA format, both in-text and on a Works Cited sheet
 Proofread your work for grammar and spelling errors (visit the Learning Lab if you need
help with proofreading)

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