Friday, 29 February 2008

Is Prison Working?

The British prison's are up to their capacity and the justice secretary is forced to whisper to judges to stop sending so many prisoners to prison.
While in America, the Pew report has found that the United States imprisons more people than any country in the world.
The answer to the British problem seems to be being fixed by constructing more prisons but maybe we should be looking into the problem of why we send so many of our citizens to prison.
According to the Home Office British Crime Survey, 65 per cent of prisoners had at least five previous convictions which could point towards the argument that prison doesn't actually stop re-offending, merely stops them doing it while they are inside.
Of course murders, rapists and such should be held in Prison to protect the wider society but a large swathe of the prison population are there for relatively minor offences like not having a TV licence or failure to pay an amenities bill. These people are not a danger to society and need not be locked up but it seems to be the mood of society these days that incarceration is not the final possible option for such trifling crimes.
What does seem to be the major contributor to our problem is drugs.
Whether convicted for dealing or taking to criminal means to fund the habit, drugs accounts for a horrendous amount of prison admissions.
The HM Prison Service website reveals the frightening statistic that
On average 55% of prisoners report a serious drug problem and in prisons where prisoners are screened on reception that figure can be as high as 80%.
That there seems to be the crux of the problem. You need to tackle the problem of drugs in order to tackle the problem of the exploding prison population.
My solution would be to find an alternative punishment for non-threatening crimes and take the time to seriously look again at the legalisation of drugs.


ruth said...

a large swathe of the prison population are there for relatively minor offences like not having a TV licence or failure to pay an amenities bill.

Really? Like the debtors prisons of centuries ago? I didn't know that!

Miz UV said...

I agree that there should be something other than prison for drug offenders. I'm not sure that it'd be a good idea to legalize hard drugs though. But it's craziness to keep stuffing more and more people in there for short stints, and then they go right back out and do it again. Wasn't there a song about that?

Noah "Nog" M. said...

Wow, we have the same problem here in the States and always talk about how "great it is in Europe" that so few are in jail. I definitely think that this is one of the instances where y'all get it right.

We tend refer to it as "nonviolent drug offenders" and "victimless crimes". And, of course, let's say, pot were legalized it wouldn't be all that bad. The government could regulate it, businessmen could make less dangerous pot, law-abiding citizens would grow it as opposed to murdering thugs, and (as a libertarian minded sort I love this one) God-forbid the government could even tax it.

And I'd be open to "harder drugs as well" insofar as I see it as always possible that cocaine consumers might prefer less addictive, less harmful drugs to drugs of lesser art.


Stephen said...

Addiction to hard drugs need to be dealt with as a health issue, not a crime.