Increasing prison numbers is a sign of failure not success.

A person in a prison cell is like a car driver in an A&E bed, it means something has gone wrong earlier in the process. All that money spent on driver training, road signals and signage, crash barriers and air-bags all wasted because there he is lying all bandage up in traction.

If I said I wanted to see more people in bandages in A&E and that I’d be happy to see them come back again over and over you’d think I was mad.

You would ask me what all the money spent on preventing road accidents had achieved, you’d ask why I wasn’t spending a bit more time, effort and money preventing people ending up in very expensive hospital beds after hurting themselves and others.

So why do we not ask the same about prisons?

Prison is unbelievably expensive, the cost of putting a teenager into Feltham for one month would pay for a year’s worth of fees at a minor public school. An when nearly 80% re-offend within two years you have to ask if this really is a model we want to expand.

Wouldn’t it be better to have fewer people committing crime? Wouldn’t it be better heading upstream and sorting these people out while they are still a nuisance rather that a fully fledged criminal? Wouldn’t it be better to make sure the people who are banged up at the moment don’t re-offend when they get out?

Ken Clarke today outlined a different vision for the prison system and I have a lot of sympathy for his position. Prisons are an important part of the solution but they are not the whole solution, yes prisons work but they only work at being prisons. Engines work but without wheels, a gearbox, bodywork etc. you don’t have a car.”

And just in case you think that this is all a bunch of nice words that will never work have a look at this, it is working already.

6 responses to “Increasing prison numbers is a sign of failure not success.

  1. I'm shocked, surprised and disappointed in you James.

    Prison Works. Forget Liberal Elite arguments about rehabilitation. It is very easy, and lazy, to “write off” this kind of assessment as ‘typical Right Wing theory’ or as old fashioned and rather embarrassing reactionary views.

    Criminologists, Politicians, liberal theorists and hand-wringers need to wake up to the fact that some of us believe in prison sentencing because we actually have a professional knowledge of thugs and killers that roam the streets.

    It’s a matter of public protection, nothing more.

  2. I'm shocked, surprised and disappointed in you James.

    Prison Works. Forget Liberal Elite arguments about rehabilitation. It is very easy, and lazy, to “write off” this kind of assessment as ‘typical Right Wing theory’ or as old fashioned and rather embarrassing reactionary views.

    Criminologists, Politicians, liberal theorists and hand-wringers need to wake up to the fact that some of us believe in prison sentencing because we actually have a professional knowledge of thugs and killers that roam the streets.

    It’s a matter of public protection, nothing more.

  3. Without wishing to troll excessively or make things personal, I think I'd rather not take my advice on the criminal justice system from someone who chooses the screen-name “Excalibur”. It's like taking relationship advice from a user calling themselves “Lancelot”.

    If prison works, why are so many people reoffending? What does that solve in the long term? You might be right about giving more deterrent terms for a few persistent violent offenders, but at what point does one say, “hang on, in this case we have a mentally unstable sociopath who's never going to get better being locked in a cell for 23 hours a day – but who might become a productive member of society given the right treatment (which probably costs less than binning what is, after all, another human being).”

    I worry about “public protection”, too, but I'm also concerned about that becoming an excuse to start some kind of proactive cleansing of our society of what one group considers “undesirables”.

  4. Without wishing to troll excessively or make things personal, I think I'd rather not take my advice on the criminal justice system from someone who chooses the screen-name “Excalibur”. It's like taking relationship advice from a user calling themselves “Lancelot”.

    If prison works, why are so many people reoffending? What does that solve in the long term? You might be right about giving more deterrent terms for a few persistent violent offenders, but at what point does one say, “hang on, in this case we have a mentally unstable sociopath who's never going to get better being locked in a cell for 23 hours a day – but who might become a productive member of society given the right treatment (which probably costs less than binning what is, after all, another human being).”

    I worry about “public protection”, too, but I'm also concerned about that becoming an excuse to start some kind of proactive cleansing of our society of what one group considers “undesirables”.

  5. 'RY' your last paragraph shows you to be a typical liberal hand-wringer, the type of person whose views are responsible for the dire state that this country finds itself in.

    Locking people up offers a very good return on the taxpayer’s investment. It may well cost £29,600 to keep someone in prison for a year. But we must set against this the fact that the average prisoner commits a remarkable 140 crimes per year before incarceration — and, according to the Home Office, the average crime costs £2,970. So out on the streets, the prisoners inflict £406,000 of damage (including the £30,500 cost of sentencing them in a crown court).

    The way to determine if judges are issuing too any prison sentences is to look at the number of inmates, as a proportion of crimes committed. Here, it is 16 — well below the European average of 21. Far from being vindictive, our prison system seems to let go of the most persistent offenders. A study of career criminals — that is, those with 15 convictions or cautions behind them when being sentenced — show that most walk away without any custodial sentence. To reduce this furtheris simply to subject the country to more crime.

    Time for change. Prison works – longer sentences for all, please.

  6. 'RY' your last paragraph shows you to be a typical liberal hand-wringer, the type of person whose views are responsible for the dire state that this country finds itself in.

    Locking people up offers a very good return on the taxpayer’s investment. It may well cost £29,600 to keep someone in prison for a year. But we must set against this the fact that the average prisoner commits a remarkable 140 crimes per year before incarceration — and, according to the Home Office, the average crime costs £2,970. So out on the streets, the prisoners inflict £406,000 of damage (including the £30,500 cost of sentencing them in a crown court).

    The way to determine if judges are issuing too any prison sentences is to look at the number of inmates, as a proportion of crimes committed. Here, it is 16 — well below the European average of 21. Far from being vindictive, our prison system seems to let go of the most persistent offenders. A study of career criminals — that is, those with 15 convictions or cautions behind them when being sentenced — show that most walk away without any custodial sentence. To reduce this furtheris simply to subject the country to more crime.

    Time for change. Prison works – longer sentences for all, please.

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