Monday, 29 January 2007


Just some stuff to help when considering the latest information about the prisons crisis.

Firstly the spin seems to suggest that the reason that prisons are full is that more criminals are being caught and locked up. Not so. The average number of convictions is pretty constant at 1.75M/annum. The difference now against 10 years ago is that magistrates used to use a custodial sentence in 25% of cases - now they lock up 61% of offenders. Remember that magistrates deal with "minor" cases, theft of less than £1,000 for example.

Longer sentences are a greater deterrent. Not so. If prison were any sort of deterrent they wouldn't be full! The UK locks up more people per head of population than any other country in Europe. The chances of someone who serves a sentence of 3 months or less reoffending is 96% - so that works then doesn't it?

Prison places are at a premium and so they are only used to detain those who are a danger to society - people like Lindis Percy. She's 64 and this criminal mastermind is in Low Newton Jail on Co Durham, we're being protected from a woman who failed to pay a fine after being convicted of a breach of the peace at a protest outside a US base in Yorkshire. And today there was news that a man who should have been released and repatriated is still in jail because the home office hasn't applied for a copy of his birth certificate from his country of origin so that he can be resettled.

Cheap jibes? Not really addressing the main issues?

This government was elected on a platform about being tough on crime, etc, but they've singularly failed to plan for the effects of increasing sentences. A by-product of the current overcrowding is that education is being restricted in some prisons because of security fears. Rather than dealing with the causes of crime Tony's cronies have really just tried to lock up more people for longer as a sop to the law and order brigade. This serves only to ensure that we are banging up people with mental illnesses and real medical reasons not to be in jail and it's easy to keep building more cells rather than actually looking at how to reduce crime.

4 careful considerations:

methel said...

...and while they are banged up they have absolutely no need think about, let alone to come face to face with, any of the consequences of their actions. And, they can spend 24 hours a day learning new tricks from their companions which they can then put into practice on their release. Cynical? me? surely not.

Hera said...

I have worked in the prison service and police. I can say that the prison was indeed like a holiday camp (but with not overly pleasant campers). But working for the police I worked with DV victims, now offenders that beat their wifes/partners up and make their lives a misery are very rarely imprisoned. Imprisonment helps the victim have time to start a new life, but no apparently there is more important criminals, like old dears who don't pay council tax!

fjl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fjl said...

'If prisons were any sort of deterrent they wouldn't be full!'

Well quite. Stop making certain victim-of-the-system status' a way of life. Behave fairly and insightfully about drugs and the causes of crime, and the prisons will be more or less empty, serving the correct purpose of shaming those who deserve to be in there, (in fact very few).

Another very good piccy you've got there btw.