What is prison meant to do? The obvious answer is that prison is meant to punish criminals, and to act as a deterrent to potential criminals. “Do the crime, do the time” means that if someone commits a crime, they have incurred a debt to society which can only be repaid by spending time in a prison. But what is the actual point? When a criminal is released from prison, they’re barred from a huge range of careers. No one wants to hire an ex-convict.