Thursday, 21 January 2010

Prison Does Work

The Commons Select Committee report on justice this week announced that the Governments proposed £4.2 billion spend on prisons would be better spent on prevention and rehabilitation. I do not disagree that Probation and the Youth Offending Team, for example, are under funded, but having seen what they achieve with the resources they have I am not confident that throwing money at them will bring about a sea change.

Liberals (with a small l) always espouse the view that prison does not work because those incarcerated more often than not re-offend. They choose to turn a blind eye to the fact that the majority of those given community penalties also re offend. I can suggest a few reasons why. Firstly, by the time an offender reaches prison, unless it is for a very serious crime, they will have been through the justice system an average of 9 times and received reprimands, conditional discharges, fines, supervision order, probation order, community penalties etc. etc. I contend that by the time they reach prison they are so far down the road of criminal behaviour that they are almost irrecoverable. If we sent them to prison the 2nd or 3rd time they appeared in Court then it might be more effective.

Secondly, because of the above, the justice system to the persistent offender is a joke. Go and spend a day in the courts and look at the staff hiding behind a protective screen while the offenders strut around swearing and intimidating everyone. Watch them leave the court laughing at the system and stating they have ‘got away with it’ because they got a fine or supervision order. The only penalty that persistent offenders actually believe to be a punishment is prison and we should not forget that and use it appropriately.

Thirdly, prisons are schools of crime and ineffective in reforming offenders because of a lack of resources, in prison, and motivation for offenders to reform. Let us have separate prisons for those sentenced to prison for the first time. Let us link early release to achievement in education and workplace training. It is obscene that we send people who cannot read or write to prison for 6 months or more and they still cannot read and write when they are released.

Fourthly, and possibly most important, prison works because it stops people offending. A burglar or car thief cannot commit offences when they are in prison and we must not forget that means thousands less people waking up in the morning to find their car broken into or stolen or coming home from work and finding their house broken into. I wish as much consideration were given to these victims as is given to the persistent offenders.


  1. What's wrong with the stocks or a cage in the town/shopping centre for shoplifters and other toerags?

  2. Justice needs to be swift and harsh (yet appropriate and fair). Personally I agree that sending people to prison much sooner - and preferably having charging, trial and sentence as quickly as possible after they're arrested - would be a fairly effective way to knock people out of crime before they get too embedded in it.

    And yes, while people are in prison they need to be dragged out of the need to commit crime. I've been wondering if it would be practical to make release from prison conditional on being completely clean from drugs - including prescribed substitute drugs.

  3. Oh, forced reading, writing, and math classes could make rehabilitation much more effective in prison. As much as they probably hated class when they were younger, it's hard to be truant in a cage. Just move the worst most apathetic teachers to these jobs and we might be able to improve two areas of society.

  4. Since we're in the EU now, and prison is a business like any other, surely we should be putting incarceration out to tender? I think Poland would do a bang up job, for much less money than we spend on it.

  5. Don't fall into the trap of conflating liberalism and self-serving stupidity.

    I'm extremely liberal when it comes to civil liberties, and believe we should strive towards Locke's "no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions."

    But that doesn't mean doing little or nothing about those who overstep the mark and harm another's life, health, liberty or possessions. Just the opposite.

    if we are to be broadly free to enjoy those things within the reasonable moral and legal constraints of the day , then the government must clamp down on those who would deprive us of life, health, liberty or possessions. And that includes depriving them of those things for as long as it takes to get the message across.

    While allowances can and should be made for particular circumstances, the more serious the harm and the more often harm is caused, then the harder the government must clamp down on the perpetrators.

    People who step outside the boundaries should be given the opportunity and support to return within them, but their opportunities should be proportionate to the harm they've caused and are likely to cause. And it also needs to be accepted that some people will never have the capacity or will to return within the boundaries, and so should be kept imprisoned for the wider benefit of society.

    Unfortunately, most of the so-called "liberals" running the country are anything but liberal. They're stupid, self-serving, short-term, mob appeasing lackwits, without an inch of backbone, who want to retain a firm grip on the gravy train for the benefit of themselves and their scummy mates.

    It's enough to drive a genuine liberal to anarchism and hangings from lamp posts.

  6. Rehabilitation does not & never has worked effectively .. you can only rehabilitate someone who wants to be rehabilitated ..

    Just like you can only rehabilitate Alcoholics & Drug users if they really want that to happen ..

    Under the current system, where crime pays .. (and when it doesn't, the Benefits system seamlessly takes over) .. there is no incentive to work for money .. hence no incentive to be rehabilitated ..

    For the incentive to become effective, there needs to be a facility for punitive sanctions .. So, whenever a person is convicted of offences at Court, all Benefits should cease with immediate effect ..

    Yes, I was in the "Job" for 30 years .. and believe you me .. I'm glad to be out of it ...

  7. Rogerborg said... "Since we're in the EU now, and prison is a business like any other, surely we should be putting incarceration out to tender? I think Poland would do a bang up job, for much less money than we spend on it."

    Indeed! And we can start trading in prison credits. More bucks for your bang-up.

  8. - I think Poland would do a bang up job, for much less money than we spend on it."

    Or we could wait for Turkey to join the EU....

  9. Excellent post! Unfortunately the Criminal Justice System is exactly the opposite of its title & not without good reason is the CPS known as the Criminals Protection Society. Also, without trying to be offensive, most of your colleagues in the Police are intellectually challenged bully boys who are only interested in meeting targets & don't give a toss whether they charge the criminal or the victim - anything that allows them to tick a box with the least amount of personal effort - Munir Hussain is a prime example of that. Pity he didn't kill the guy and put a full stop to his criminality - how many times has he re-offended since he attacked the Hussain famiy?

  10. Officers are given more targets now than ever before. I know officer's who get a piece of paper left in their tray stating what their targets are for next month and if they do not meet them they are taken into the office. It is wrong. Police are on the streets to police what they come across and not stats to make the Insp. look good.

    So the last post is correct, police come across as bully boys but they are only following orders to meet targets. Take away the targets and we would see a better down to earth officer.

  11. Things were ever thus ... When I joined the "Job" 30 odd years ago Probationers were required to keep "Records of Work" which were checked regularly by one's "Reporting Sergeant" and if one didn't measure up ... one quickly got the reputation for being a "Gurkha" i.e. .. "Takes no prisoners" ..

    The "numbers game" has always been there & always will be, simply because the "bean counters" cannot quantify "productive" policing by what doesn't happen during a tour of Duty ..

  12. It sounds like your justice system is just as fucked up as ours.

  13. I'm not too sure about the figure that it takes an average of 9 court appearances before a prison sentence is passed. That's not my experience, although I do agree that courts can be far too keen to pass out non-custodials. The law in fact requires that the court asks itself whether the offence is so serious that only custody is justified. If it is then that is the sentence unless there are some special circumstances that allows a suspension of the sentence.

    The real reason that prison doesn't work is because it does not address the reasons behind the offending. I think that there is a similar problem with probation in its many guises.

    I have thought for many years that there should be a very strong emphasis on rehabilitaion within the prison system. Whereas at present there are courses but these are fragmented and, more importantly, virtunally impossible to get on unless you are doing a very lengthy sentence!