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The Shawshank Redemption Report

HomeEssaysMovie ReviewThe Shawshank Redemption Report
04.09.2020
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The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 drama film (Marvin and Darabont, 1994) adapted from Stephen King’s novella “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” (King, 1982). The film depicts the story of Andy Dufresne, a former banker in Maine who is sentenced to two life sentences for the murder of his wife and her lover. Andy serves his punishment in the notorious prison called Shawshank State Penitentiary. In the penitentiary, he faces various types of assault from both prisoners and the guards. At the beginning of his term, Andy works at the prison’s laundry. However, soon after he gains popularity for his knowledge of taxation and educational efforts, he writes letters to authorities demanding the renovation of the prison’s library. This film became a classic for the rich ethical context and social values. The story of Andy is related to several main characters. Andy makes friends with the contraband smuggler Red, who morally supports Andy throughout the entire story. Byron Hadley, the captain of the guards, changes his attitude to Andy after receiving the valuable consulting help in taxation field from Andy. Warden Samuel Norton, the principal and the chief warden of the penitentiary, is a corrupted and remorseless person, although pretending to be the impeccant Christian. Another interesting character is a young convict Tommy Williams, who was not afraid to tell the truth about Andy’s innocence and was murdered due to that.

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The film raises such ethical issues as religion and virtues, moral principles, relevant punishment for crimes, justness of the existing justice system and principles of justice.

Andy is innocent, and the fact that he escapes is correct from the natural law viewpoint that highlights just and unjust laws. By planning his escape, Andy follows the just laws (his natural right to be paroled as he was innocent) and dismisses unjust laws (reveals the corruption of the prison’s administration, escapes illegally). The analysis of Andy’s behaviour from the deontological theory suggests that Andy is not right. He commits an illegal action (escape), and even the saving end does not justify the violations (means of achieving this aim). The analysis of Tommy Williams’ behaviour is very intriguing in terms of various ethical approaches. The character acts from the Kantianism position. Accordingly, he sees his moral duty to witness Andy’s innocence and does not change his position even under the hazard of death. Talking about Byron Hadley, he acts from the position of ethical egoism. When he beats Bogs (the leader of the Sister gang who assaulted and nearly killed Andy) and saves Andy from death, he follows only his own goals since for him, Andy is a tool to make money.

In our view, The Shawshank Redemption is one of the best films in the cinematography. The tough conditions of the penitentiary, the corrupted actions of the officers and the misleading order of the court contrast the unbelievably inspirational leitmotiv of the main character Andy. The film inspires and gives hope for the better future, true friendship and celebration of the truth.

The film had a motivational impact on me. It fills with hope and motivates to never surrender, no matter how frustrated you feel. Moreover, the film confirms that the true friendship exists and that there are people who will give you a hand at difficult times.

The behaviour of Andy is the example of the brilliant freedom. He acts as a professional actor in convincing Norton and winning his loyalty. Thus, he is able to manipulate and organise his bright escape. The behaviour of Red is also interesting. He is keen to see people’s thoughts and nature. The best feature of his character is his justness. On the contrary, the behaviour of Norton is disgusting and amoral. He claims that the Holy Bible and the discipline are the two main things he follows. However, his claims are just as misleading as his soul. He is engaged in corrupted schemes with financial assets. Nonetheless, the most telling episode that shows his true nature is the scene when he finds the Holy Bible in his safe, instead of the forfeited ledgers. He opens the book and throws it on the floor. He even lacks the courage to bear the responsibility for his actions. Thus, to avoid the punishment, he performs suicide by shooting himself. In other words, the act of rescuing is the side effect of following his fraudulent plans.

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1. The answer to the question if the prisoners should be treated with dignity is connected with the purpose of the prison. Some people suppose that strict regime prisoners deserve the disdainful attitude as a part of the punishment. Thus, it becomes evident that the purpose of the prison is to offer the relevant punishment for the violation. Consequently, the more severe is the crime, the stronger is the punishment. Another opinion is that the purpose of the prison should be rehabilitation. In this case, prisoners should be provided with the fundamental rights of an individual. Accordingly, they should be treated with dignity as any other human being, and positive attitude in part may help in the process of rehabilitation. The emphasis here is on the reconsideration of the way of life. The person has to be shown the correct way out of the criminal life, and the prison gives a chance to rethink the actions, learn something different and build the new life. Therefore, even if the person is sentenced to the life imprisonment, they have a chance to lead the “rehabilitated” life in prison. Undoubtedly, this scenario is possible if the basic rights of the individual are obeyed.

Another approach to crime is incapacitation, which means that violators should be sent to the prison with an aim to protect society from them. In this case, the treatment with dignity is not a priority. The life of a violator is not a priority, whereas the outside society and its safety is the primary goal. In this approach, people are divided into two groups, namely good and bad. Thus, the bad should be isolated in order to protect the good.

There is also an approach to punishment that is grounded on the threat of harsh penalties and aims, discouraging people from committing crimes. However, the question is how the government can implement the approach of deterrence. It appears that it needs to create the prisons with extremely harsh conditions and punishment options. The scenes of the film that show the tortures of prisoners in Shawshank and the conditions (cages) in prison, in our view, are the part of deterrence method.

There is also an approach called retribution. The punishment in this case is treated as revenge. Most likely, this method is well-explained by the Old Testament. Some countries still practice this approach. However, usually, it is the sign of underdeveloped legislative system.

We believe that prisoners at any penitentiary should be treated with dignity as it is among the basic rights of the individual in accordance with the Divine Command framework. No matter how severe the crime committed by the prisoner is, we (people) are not to judge them. God will give them the relevant punishment they deserve. Our aim is to rehabilitate the person and to show the possible way out of the crime that benefits both the society and the violator.

2. Warden states that his two concerns are the Bible and the discipline. However, as it becomes evident later, he is interested neither in religion nor in the discipline. On the contrary, his interest lies in the field of the personal financial benefits he can receive using his position as a principal. In 1949, Andy overheads Hadley’s complaints about the tax on inheritance he had to pay. Andy offers his legal help to Hadley and assists in using the tax evasion scheme. Andy becomes popular among prison employees for his knowledge in the financial sphere. Warden decides to appoint Andy to the new job at the library instead of the laundry work. Andy writes letters to authorities with the fundraising asking for the renovation of the decaying prison’s library. Simultaneously, he manages the financial matters for the Shawshank’s employees, guards from other prisons and Norton. Several years after, Norton starts trading prisoners’ labour for public works. He receives bribes from contractors for undercutting skilled labour costs. Andy helps Norton in laundering the money. He invents a front named Randall Stevens. The man with the faked name, ID, driver’s license and real laundered money exists only on paper. Andy performed the bookkeeping services and initiated the fraudulent schemes for Norton. The laundered money was saved on the accounts of Randall Stevens in a dozen of different banks. Norton was not interested in Andy’s release as he posed a hazard to him knowing too much. When Tommy, the prisoner transferred to Shawshank from another penitentiary, provides facts that may reveal Andy’s innocence, Norton orders to murder Tommy. Norton is sunk in corruption, fraud, and murder as a result, but he uses his position to hide his real face. After Andy escapes, he visits all these banks under the name of Randal Stevens and withdraws more than $370,000, which was the big money in 1966. Thus, we may calculate that Norton’s corrupted action totalled more than $370,000 laundered money. Andy Dufrense sends Norton’s accounting ledger to the Portland Daily Bugle to expose Hadley’s and Norton’s fraudulent schemes.

Thus, we may conclude that Norton used his position to launder the money, exploited the prisoners’ labour and even dared to kill the prisoner in order to hide his violations. The actions of the warden are kept hidden because none of prisoners can attain him in any legal way. The reason is that those who are “against” the system, for example Tommy, are killed. The same cases are common in all prisons. The external auditors cannot detect the cases of authority abuse, whereas the prisoners do not have legal tools to influence the situation.

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3. The establishment of private prisons is associated with one simple word which is profits. Every private company is aimed at maximising profits and minimising costs. The same happens with private prisons. The early intentions of prison privatisation named cost reduction and service improvement are the main benefits in establishing the private prison system. Moreover, private prisons had to introduce competition into the system and improve the quality of services. The ideas seemed to be beneficial to both the government and the private sector. However, in practice, the establishment of for-profit prisons led to many problems and hardly brought benefits.

The results of the research suggest that private prisons are not more cost-efficient than public (Gottschalk, 2015). Alternatively, private prisons tend to create the illusion of cost-efficiency by incarcerating the less costly inmates and allocating insufficient funds for providing facilities, teaching the personnel and providing the medical treatment. As a result, private prisons are less efficient since there are more cases of violence, escapes and poor conditions for prisoners. In order to minimise costs, private prisons lobby some contracts to win the “easier” inmates (minorities, immigrants, less severe crimes), while the public sector has to be responsible for violent inmates with severe crimes. The establishment of the private prisons did not lead to the better service through the competition. Contrary to this, it led to the decrease of the services, high exploitation level, and overcrowdings in prisons.

Another significant aspect in for-profit prisons is the fact that the private prison’s profit is dependent on the number of incarcerated inmates. The more inmates are hosted, the more money is allocated to this prison for the maintenance and aliment. Thus, private prisons have healthy interest in the incensement of incarcerated population. The example of the United States shows that the country that localises 5% of the world population keeps 25% of the world incarcerated population (Sanders, 2015). One of the reasons contributing to this disparity is the work of the private prisons. They lobby the needed laws on federal and state level and promote the “beneficial” legislation that provides reasons for more incarceration cases.

The moral hazard of private prisons is of the for-profit nature. Accordingly, as soon as the punishment is a sanction that is posed on the individuals who commit crimes, the implementation of this sanction should aim for the rehabilitation and improvement of the society in general. This motive should be offered, preserved and advocated by the state. However, if we transfer these functions to private companies, the motive of incarceration becomes simple profit maximisation.

Taking into account the mentioned considerations, we can conclude that private prisons should not be established. Instead of bringing benefits, private prisons exacerbate the financial and ethical issues in the prison system.

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