Some good points have been made in this node already - especially about the use of incarceration as a means of justice. Clearly it doesn't work very well, but unfortunately no one has come up with a better workable solution at the moment, so it has to do. At least it acts as some kind of deterrent - I'm certainly worried when I'm driving my friends around and I know they have drugs on them.

However the examples of 'treatment like animals' (the crux of this node) are rather weak. Aside from the vast amount of money Howard Marks made from his book - and the moral debate this provokes considering the experiences it is based on, I really don't think your example constitutes treatment like animals. Cavity searching criminals is rather essential considering the rampant drug problems prevelant in many jails. It's a shame drugs get in despite these measures, but, unpleasant though they are, I think it's rather clear why they are utterly necessary. Especially in the case of a rather well known drug dealer.

I also have no sympathy whatsoever for criminals such as big time dealers like Mr. Marks. I am actually pro-legalisation of soft drugs, BUT if you choose to break the law as it stands now, not out of necessity or perhaps accident - like a careless drunk driver, but through out and out choice, then you should be willing to take the punishment. I often break the law (speeding, I'm afraid) and was caught a couple of weeks ago, and so I have to say it's a fair cop and pay up.

Treatment of criminals varies greatly from prison to prison and I think it would be unfair to claim that petty thieves get treated the same way as murderers and rapists since the prisons they are put in are often of different security levels and therefore conditions. In fact I think many people would claim minor white collar criminals have it too easy, at least in the United Kingdom. And at the other end of the scale, no, I don't think Myra Hindley should be released.

Where one UK prison (Blackenhurst) was praised for having a positive and healthy regime, another (Feltham Young Offenders Institute) was described as rotten to the core, in a recent (1999) prison survey. Many offenders assessed as being safe (ie not a danger to society - esp. many fraudsters etc.) are also housed in open prisons in the UK (about 4000 people currently), that being a prison with no locks at all, with 'prisoners' free to wander the complex and with more communication privileges to the outside world than those in closed prisons. So I think one can clearly say there is a link between how people are treated and the crime they have committed. Drunk drivers are not put in prison next to rapists.

sources: archive & my vitriol.
Disclaimer: I almost certainly come across as more conservative than I really am in this writeup :)