Saturday, 8 December 2007

Prison works, we need more prisons

[...] We often hear that Britain locks up more people than any other country in Europe, or that our criminal justice is uniquely punitive. A moment's reflection will demonstrate that these claims, heard on the lips of some of our senior judges, is fatuous in the extreme. If we imprisoned people at the same rate per crimes committed as the Spanish, we would have between 350,000 and 400,000 prisoners, not the paltry 80,000 that we do have.

Again, it is often pointed out that the recidivism rate of prisoners serving short-term prison sentences is 70 per cent (actually, this is the reconviction rate: given the low level of detection, the reoffending rate is probably nearer 100 per cent). But this is an argument for drastically lengthened prison sentences, not for leniency: and indeed there is evidence that the recidivism rate is proportional to the length of sentence served.

Moreover, the recidivism rate of non-custodial community sentences is more or less the same as with short term-prison sentences, but with this difference: that while they are in prison, prisoners cannot commit crimes against the general public. It is easy to demonstrate that millions of crimes a year are committed by people already serving community sentences; thus failure to imprison properly is one of the main causes of crime in this now deeply criminalised country. Read more
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1 comment:

Peter Kirk said...


John, I am surprised at you posting such blatant nonsense, which also has nothing to do with the subject of this blog. The argument about reoffending is totally confused: "the recidivism rate is proportional to the length of sentence served" implies that the longer the sentence, the more likely people are to reoffend, so this is an argument for short sentences. But the last paragraph suggests an excellent way of reducing to zero "crimes against the general public": lock everyone up!