The BBC News Web site reports that the worldwide prison population stands at around nine million, with the U.S., China, and Russia ranked as the three countries with the most prisoners. Together, these three nations imprison half of all the world’s prisoners, with the U.S. having the highest ratio of prisoners per 100,000 of the population.
The Russian writer Dostoevsky noted that “the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” Around the world, states take varying approaches to the purpose of prison for those who are convicted, adopting approaches from liberal at one extreme to authoritarian at the other in their treatment of prisoners. In many countries, all prisons are state run, while others use private providers or a mixture of both. Some solely exist for punishment and exclusion, some attempt rehabilitation and skills training.
Ten years after Susan J. Ellis’ Voices from the Past, ‘On the Inside: The Tradition of Volunteers in Prisons,’ this edition of Along the Web offers an update of Web sites about volunteerism behind prison gates and what they reflect about the ‘degree of civilization’ volunteers encounter.